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These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 12, 2012.
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
FBI arrests 2 men in Georgia in purported jihad plot

From the LA Times WASHINGTON — FBI agents arrested two U.S. citizens — one at the Atlanta airport, the other at a bus station in Augusta, Ga. — on charges they were about to leave the U.S. for North Africa "intending to prepare to wage violent jihad."

Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair and Randy Wilson, also known as Rasheed Wilson, were charged Tuesday with conspiring "to kill persons or damage property outside the United States." A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile alleged that the men met online two years ago and that they later confided to an undercover FBI source their plans to use fake passports to join a terrorist network in Morocco or Mauritania.

At one point, the complaint said, Abukhdair suggested buying firearms and taking hostages in this country. "Jihad means people are going to die," Abukhdair allegedly told Wilson and the undercover source. "This is what jihad is. This is what war is."

...the two men "spent hours" watching videos of guerrilla tactics, bombings and prisoner beheadings, as well as mutilations of women and children. They often spoke in code — Nevada for Nigeria, San Francisco for Sudan and San Diego for Somalia. They decided to acquire fake passports and move to North Africa as jihad fighters, but when the effort took too long, Abukhdair suggested hitting U.S. targets.

Wilson later allegedly told the undercover source, "One way or the other, everyone's gonna have to fight.... Jihad is the pinnacle of Islam. There's no deed better than jihad."

Posted on 12/12/2012 3:20 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
On the Legalization of Drugs

Discussing drug legalization with libertarians, as I did recently, can be a frustrating experience. This is in part because they rarely say exactly what they mean by “legalization.” Do they mean a controlled market that would barely represent a retreat from state regulation and interference, or an uncontrolled one, in which we would all be able to buy methamphetamine or crack at our local store?

There is a much deeper problem, though: their conception of what it is to live in a civilized society. They seem to think of people as egoistic particles that occasionally bump into one another rather than as necessarily and essentially social beings. No doubt there are some egoistic particles among us, but they represent only a tiny proportion of the total. On the matter of drugs, libertarians argue that it is no business of the state to tell citizens what to take or not to take, and that doing so is therefore an oppressive curtailment of freedom. The drug laws, they insist, don’t work in practice, because so many people break them—with impunity or not, as the case may be.

Let us draw an analogy with speed limits. They undoubtedly curtail our freedom; they are undoubtedly unevenly enforced; and it is likewise undoubtedly true that they don’t work, in the sense that there can hardly be a single driver in the world who has not knowingly broken them. Indeed, it is probable that most drivers break speed limits every time they drive a car. But does that mean that speed limits do not work? No. Does anyone suppose that if there were no speed limits, people would not drive faster? You have only to drive on a German autobahn, where there are no speed limits, to get your answer.

Now, a libertarian would say that responsible citizens should be able to determine for themselves at what speed to drive. It doesn’t take much intelligence or judgment to do so. It must be remembered also, by analogy with the frequent harmlessness of drugs, that most speeding does not end in a fatal accident. Not all speeding is abuse of speeding, therefore; and if while speeding a person causes a fatality to others, he must take the consequences, financial and other. The prospect of those consequences should be enough to cause him to adjust his speed to what is sensible and safe; and as an adult, he is the best judge of the speed at which he is capable of driving safely. If a man gets home safe and sound, he has, ipso facto, driven at a sensible speed.

Alas, this is strange philosophical anthropology. People are not—I am not—like that. I can see that other people should not drive above a certain speed, but I cannot see that I should not do so. They, of course, have a mirror-image view: they think that they are safe and that I am dangerous. But though we all consider ourselves safe, the fact is that speeding makes us more likely to have an accident or to kill someone.

Living in a civilized society means accepting laws that one did not make oneself, and that in any given situation may seem unnecessary; one has no right to complain if punished for breaking them. I accept the law as necessary even as I break it. One is not oneself the arbiter of everything. In some circumstances, it is right to prevent potential harms to third parties such as speeding and taking drugs produce rather than to wait for them actually to occur. It is a matter of judgment, not of principle, when those circumstances exist—and in my opinion, the taking of methamphetamine falls well this side of justifiable prevention.

Of course, restrictions on freedom may become onerous, and petty regulations may whittle away freedom altogether. But all freedoms are not created equal; a hierarchy exists among them; and a restriction on the freedom to intoxicate yourself or drive down Fifth Avenue at 100 miles an hour is not to be compared with a restriction on the freedom to say what you think. Speech codes are therefore a much more serious assault on liberty than are drug laws.

First published in City Journal.

Posted on 12/12/2012 5:26 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
A Visit To The Jihad Museum

From The New York Times:

Where War Still Echoes, Recalling Earlier Battles

HERAT, Afghanistan — For a country disfigured by decades of conflict, it seems fitting that Afghanistan should have a place set aside for reflecting on war.

The Jihad Museum on a forested hillside in the western provincial capital of Herat is many things: a temple to the mujahedeen heroes who battled the Soviets in the 1970s and ’80s, and a memorial for the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who were slaughtered or fled the fighting.

It is also, for many Afghans, a not-so-veiled portrayal of a likely future: they review the museum’s dioramas of historical violence with clenching knots in their stomachs, fearing that the scenes may play out again soon, after the end of the NATO combat mission here in 2014.

“I think the worst days are yet to come,” said Obaidullah Esar, 51, a former fighter, who was touring the museum one recent afternoon.

The museum is a blue, green and white rotunda covered on the outside with the names of hundreds of victims from the war, all set in a watered garden of flower beds and fountains.

It boasts captured Soviet weaponry like tanks, a MIG fighter jet and helicopters. It has a portrait hall of fame of mujahedeen commanders.

The star attraction is a graphic diorama showing models of Afghan villagers rising up in a hellish wartime landscape to cudgel the heads of Soviet oppressors, in a triumphant if rather rosy narrative arc: Soviets commit heinous acts against poor villagers, farmers besiege Soviet tanks with sticks, Soviet soldiers are throttled, Soviet soldiers are shot. At the end, the army of the mujahedeen marches home victorious.

Still, if its view is more triumphal than strictly historical, it is one of the few accounts of the era that is easily accessible here.

“Since most Afghans are uneducated and we don’t have good historians to write our histories, our children don’t know who the Russians were, why the Afghans fought against them and what was the result of their resistance,” said Sayed Wahid Qattali, a prosperous 28-year-old politician and businessman who is the son of a former jihadi commander. Mr. Qattali’s father established the museum with the help of Ismail Khan, a mujahedeen warlord and former governor of Herat.

Mr. Qattali says one of the motivations for building the museum is the reluctance of the country’s official history books to address the painful events of the past four decades. In an attempt to depoliticize the history of a country pulled in so many different ways by ethnic tensions, school textbooks tell Afghanistan’s history in depth only up until about the 1970s, skipping over major events since then like the Soviet invasion, civil war, the Taliban’s reign and the American-led invasion and military presence.

Mr. Qattali wants the museum to fill that void, in particular telling his version of the mujahedeen’s exploits — before time moves on and the next chapter of history is inevitably written.

His family has profited during the relative calm of the past 10 years, with interests from chicken farms to a security firm that guards NATO fuel convoys, and he runs his own television station.

Recently, he toured the garden of the museum, showing off the mujahedeen’s trophies, like the MIG jet.

“Afghans have very bad memories of this,” he said, shaking his head, before strolling past an 82-millimeter light-rocket launcher perched in the grass. Near a Soviet helicopter, behind some bushes, Mr. Qattali hunched his shoulders and grew even more morose. “A lot of people were killed by this kind of helicopter,” he said. “We lost a lot of relatives and loved ones. Of course, we fought to the end.”

Inside the hushed museum, shoeless feet — visitors are required to remove their shoes — shuffled past glass cabinets of centuries-old rifles seized from British soldiers in earlier conflicts. The British were repelled, too, and the guns were used against the Soviets, showing an Afghan knack for taking whatever weapons invaders bring and turning them to their advantage.

A museum visitor might reflect that the arsenal of weaponry currently being supplied to Afghanistan by the American-led coalition could one day be piled here, too.

After the guns, a long corridor is lined with more than 60 iconic portraits of mujahedeen commanders who made their names during the fighting against the Soviets and, later, the Taliban: men like Ahmed Shah Massoud and Abdul Haq.

Though they share a hallway, the warlords hardly were united.

After the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, the jihadists fought ferociously among themselves, wreaking their own devastation. That sad story is not told here, though a facet of it is implied: In the Jihad Museum, the portraits of warlords allied with Mr. Khan appear proudly front and center, while the mujahedeen of rival parties like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are bestowed only grudging prominence, virtually hidden as an afterthought in the corner.

Even as the faces of factionalism haunt this museum, they also loom over the present-day politics in the capital, Kabul. Many of the same men and their supporters uneasily share space in the halls of government. When Afghans sketch out their fears about a coming civil war, those are also the men they envision leading it.

After the hall of fame, stairs rise to the museum’s most dramatic offering — the painted landscape of chalk figurines, tanks and villagers, consumed in an inferno of war around Herat, this province where some of the early resistance to the Soviets and the Soviet-backed government came together. A loudspeaker pipes in the terrible booms and rattles of war.

The clear message here is to remind that war is horrifying, and that if it comes again it will bring destruction and force people to flee to lives of exile in Iran and Pakistan, as many in older generations did, Mr. Qattali said. He concedes, though, that there is also a message encoded for the Taliban here: If the ordinary folk of Herat once again faced an invading oppressor, they would fight.

Indeed, Mr. Khan is already rallying his followers in this region, stirring controversy by urging them to prepare to fight alongside the Afghan Army against the Taliban after the international troops are gone.

“The Afghans will ultimately face the truth — and that is, after the Americans leave and the Taliban come back, they don’t have a choice but to fight the Taliban if they want to protect what we have achieved in the past 10 years,” Mr. Qattali said.

____________________

What the reporter missed: the museum is in Herat, and the locals, being Hazara and Shi'a, have the most to fear from a Taliban resurgence, for it was the Taliban's Uber-Sunnis who were attempting to wipe out the Hazara as Infidels when the latter were saved by the interrupting (American) bell.

Posted on 12/12/2012 7:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
The Gun-Running, Covert Ops Mess in Benghazi

Kimberly Dvorak writes in The Examiner:

New details have emerged that shed light on the chaos that embroiled the Benghazi mission on 9/11/2012 that led to the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the hands of the very anti-Qaddafi rebels that Stevens formally liaised with for the CIA.

It wasn’t a secret that Ambassador Christopher Stevens played a key role in Libya’s “Arab Spring.” During the course of the revolution that ultimately toppled Muammar Qaddafi, Stevens’ built a relationship with the Libyan rebels and it’s this experience that made him the frontrunner for the Libyan ambassadorship. Stevens’ history of working with Libyan radicals provided the perfect opportunity for the Obama administration to covertly move newly purchased weapons from Libya’s freedom fighters to Syrian insurgents via ships through Turkey.

In March 2011 Stevens became the official U.S. liaison to the al-Qaeda-linked “Libyan opposition, working directly with Abdelhakim Belhadj of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group—a group that has now disbanded, with some fighters reportedly participating in the attack that took Stevens' life.”

Former CIA officer Clare Lopez said, “That means Stevens was authorized by the U.S. Department of State and the Obama administration to aid and abet individuals and groups that were, at a minimum, allied ideologically with al-Qaeda, the jihadist terrorist organization that attacked the homeland on the first 9/11, the one that’s not supposed to exist anymore after the killing of its leader, Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011.”

Obama’s weapon buyback program in Libya

Couple this with the weapon buyback program offered by the Obama administration and there’s a recipe for catastrophe.

Shortly after the October 2011 death of Qaddafi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Tripoli that the U.S. was committing $40 million to help Libya “secure and recover its weapons stockpiles.” Department of State Assistant Secretary Andrew Shapiro confirms DOS had a weapons buy-back program in Libya that was also supported by the UK who gave $1.5 million, the Netherlands gave $1.2 million, Germany gave about $1 million and our neighbor to the north, Canada gave $1.6 million to purchase the deadly arsenal that went missing after the fall of Qaddafi.

The State Department was specifically looking to acquire the 20,000 MANPADS (they are commonly known as man-portable air shoulder-fire missiles) that went missing once Qaddafi was killed.

State Department Assistant Secretary, for Political-Military affairs, Andrew Shapiro said, they did not know how many MANPADs remained missing, but admitted it was a significant number.

“Many militia groups remain reluctant to relinquish them,” Shapiro said. He did say that the U.S. has recovered about 5,000 MANPADs earlier this year.

Repeated calls and emails went unanswered to the State Department and Shapiro regarding an update on the weapon buyback program as well as what the State Department did with the weapons they purchased.

Russia and China complained of U.S. arms trafficking in Syria

Another curious piece to this puzzle is Russia. Did they have a part to play inside Benghazi and was presidential contender, Mitt Romney right that Russia remains a threat to the U.S.? (Story by this reporter here)

The Russian response, under former KGB Cold War foe Vladimir Putin, who was visibly incensed last fall when a jubilant crowd of rebels murdered his ally, Muammar Qaddafi, has described the event as “repulsive and disgusting.”

Shortly after the death of U.S. ambassador in Libya, numerous Russian commentators used social media to describe their position on the destabilization in Libya.

“The democratized residents of Libya thanked the staff of the American Embassy for its support,” one Tweet read. “This is what you call exporting democracy, it seems. America gives Libya a revolution, and Libyans, in return, kill the ambassador.”

Aleksei K. Pushkov, the head of Russia’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote via Twitter: “Under Qaddafi they didn’t kill diplomats. Obama and Clinton are in shock? What did they expect – ‘Democracy?’ Even bigger surprises await them in Syria,” a New York Times story read in September.

It is no secret that Putin disagreed with the West’s view of Syrian ruler Assad. When Putin was Prime Minister, he delivered a scathing criticism of the Libya bombing by NATO and left the impression that under his leadership it would have never happened.

It’s also worth pointing out that Russia and China have consistently opposed any military intervention in Syria. Russia and its allies have repeatedly warned the West that efforts to aid Syrian rebels would only bring more bloodshed to an already embattled region. Also, the Russians have been demanding a cessation of U.S. aid to the Syrian rebels fighting President Assad, again noting that any military aid would destabilizes the entire region, and could have serious economic consequences for Russia.

Even Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned the West against arming the Syrian rebels. However, the Arab Times news agency said, “Western officials say that Russia’s vetoes have abetted the Syrian violence by encouraging Assad to pursue an offensive with his Russian-supplied armed forces to crush the popular revolt. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are believed to have funded arms shipments.”

Case in point, in late August Russia said there was increasing evidence that Syrian rebels were procuring large numbers of Western-made weapons. They even suggested that America and other EU countries were spurring the violence in Syria.

So was Benghazi a message delivered by the Russians to end U.S. gun-running by executing Ambassador Stevens, the kingpin between the armed groups, the Libya stockpiles, and the shipments to Turkey?

Reports are abundant and U.S. acknowledged guns went to Al Qaeda

Despite evidence to the contrary, a State Department spokeswoman rejected the idea of arms trafficking, saying Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi for diplomatic meetings, and the opening of a new cultural center.

The State Department response rings hollow, however, since the Times of London reported that a Libyan Al Entisar ship was found carrying at least 400 tons of cargo. “Some of it was humanitarian, but also reportedly weapons, described by the report as the largest consignment of weapons headed for Syria's rebels on the frontlines.”

Middle East expert, Walid Phares confirmed the ship was carrying “a lot of weapons.”

Also former CIA Director Porter Goss told Fox News that some of the weapons from the Libya uprising are making their way to Syria. Goss claimed that the U.S. intelligence is aware of the networking given their presence in Benghazi and throughout the region.

"I think there's no question that there's a lot of networking going on. And ... of course we know it,” he said. Unfortunately, many of those weapons shipped through Turkey to Syria ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda.

Not so long ago, America armed the Taliban with shoulder-fire missiles to fight a proxy war against the Russians only to find those weapons being used to kill Americans during the “war on terror.” This illustrates once again that arming enemies is never a good idea.

Middle East experts contend the Muslim Brotherhood and its proxy, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) leader Abdulhakim Belhadj, were in direct contact with Stevens and provided information as to which rebel groups in Libya and Syria deserved American trust and more importantly, weapons.

Proof comes from the 2010 classified cable from Stevens that read in part:Development Foundation brokered talks with imprisoned members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) that led to the release earlier this year of about 130 former LIFG members. The GOL (Government of Libya) considers the program an important means to signal willingness to reconcile with former enemies, a significant feature of Libya’s tribal culture.”

The Business Insider wrote a story focusing on the export of fighters. “If the new Libyan government was sending seasoned Islamic fighters and 400 tons of heavy weapons to Syria through a port in southern Turkey—a deal brokered by Stevens' primary Libyan contact during the Libyan revolution—then the governments of Turkey and the U.S. surely knew about it.

Another portion of the 2010 classified cable says, “Libya also cooperates closely with Syria, particularly on foreign fighter flows. Syria has transferred over 100 Libyan foreign fighters to the GOL’s custody over the past two years, including a tranche of 27 in late 2007. Our assessment is that the flow of foreign fighters from Libya to Iraq and the reverse flow of veterans to Libya has diminished due to the GOL’s cooperation with other states and new procedures. Counter-terrorism cooperation is a key pillar of the U.S.-LIBYA bilateral relationship and a shared strategic interest.”

Crowds outside Benghazi mission were presumed buy-back customers

It’s been months since the 9/11 Benghazi attack and no official conclusions have been released. After last week’s Congressional closed-door intelligence briefing, many lawmakers emerged wondering why Ambassador Stevens was not more concerned with the growing boisterous rebel crowd outside the mission’s gates shortly before the attack that would kill him?

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Defense Intelligence Agency operative Anthony Shaffer says he knows the answer. “The Ambassador was expecting a weapon buyback deal shortly before the attack. That knowledge played a role in the slow response and created the initial confusion in Benghazi.”

U.S. rendered no aid to Stevens despite President’s “render all aid” order

While there was no shortage of second-guessing in the White House Situation Room, military leaders in charge of quick response teams a half-a-world away sprang into action upon receipt of the consulate’s 911 call and readied the troops for a real-world rescue.

“As the events were unfolding, the Pentagon began to move special operations forces from Europe to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily. U.S. aircraft routinely fly in and out of Sigonella and there are also fighter jets based in Aviano, Italy. But while the U.S. military was at a heightened state of alert because of 9/11, there were no American forces poised and ready to move immediately into Benghazi when the attack began,” the Military Times reported.

It’s also been reported that on the fateful day in Libya, CIA/SEALs had a laser target trained on the enemy firing mortar rounds at the compound. The Pentagon has listed numerous explanations as to why the trained SEALs would use the lasers. However, they conveniently omitted the key component—the expectation that U.S. help was seconds away. The “fog of spin” from the Obama administration, no matter how creative, cannot conceal the truth. If fighter aircraft were dispatched to assist Ambassador Chris Stevens and other consulate personnel, a former Naval pilot says, “The paper trail would be a mile long. Not only do the pilots have to file logbook reports, but the ground crew, the crew arming the jets with appropriate weapons and the Italian air controllers would have exhaustive records.”

The President told a KUSA Denver reporter that the minute he found out about the Benghazi attack he directed all available diplomatic and military resources to secure American consular personnel.

Unfortunately for the CIA/SEALs fighting off the Ansar al-Shariah terrorists, the jets would never arrive. The fact, CIA/SEALs were painting their lasers on the enemy targets shortly after midnight, five hours before their eventual deaths, indicates they were expecting air support. And why would they be waiting for air support? Because the trained SEALs knew the oplans (operations plans) and military protocol for this exact operation once they requested the assistance.

U.S. did not undertake an immediate FBI investigation as in USS Cole attack

“There is clear precedence for conducting an investigation into this type of terrorist attack - we faced similar circumstance with the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in October of 2000 in Aden, Yemen,” Shaffer described. “We had to work rapidly to put a qualified team on the ground to investigate one of the most severe acts of terror in the pre-9/11 era. Many of the perpetrators of this attack were eventually killed, captured or eliminated via Predator drone strikes... but in the case of the Benghazi attack there HAS NOT been a rapid or expansive effort made by this White House to establish a clear path forward and begin the hard work of bringing justice to those who died and those who attacked and looted the weapons from the CIA annex -weapons that include Surface to Air missiles that can be used to down civilian airliners.”

The FBI's own press information concerning the response to the USS Cole bombing in 2000 highlights some key differences between the Benghazi incident and Yemen.

“We quickly sent to Yemen more than 100 agents from our Counterterrorism Division, the FBI Laboratory, and various field offices. Director Louis Freeh arrived soon after to assess the situation and to meet with the President of Yemen. On November 29, a guidance document was signed between the U.S. State Department and the Yemeni government setting protocols for questioning witnesses and suspects. FBI and Yemeni investigators proceeded with interviews, and a large amount of physical evidence was shipped back to the FBI Laboratory for examination.”

So what is the difference between the attack in Yemen against the USS Cole and the terror attack in Benghazi? Shaffer says, “CIA.”

“The CIA and State Department worked to keep FBI out of Benghazi because they knew as soon as the FBI showed up, an aggressive investigation would reveal the details of the CIA mistakes and wrongdoings.”

Was Ambassador Stevens still a CIA agent?

Speculation is nothing new inside the beltway, but several questions surround Ambassador Chris Stevens real/past employer. If he were working as a CIA agent he would be in violation of international diplomatic protocols by running an arms trafficking program under diplomatic cover.

Judge Napolitano offered this scenario to the Washington Times. “Now we can connect some dots. If Stevens was a CIA agent, he was in violation of international law by acting as the U.S. ambassador. And if he and his colleagues were intelligence officials, they are not typically protected by Marines, because they ought to have been able to take care of themselves.”

Further ties to the intelligence world comes from a 2010 leaked Wikileaks classified cable that highlights the topics Mr. Stevens would be discussing to assist Libyans full reintegration to the international community.

The main issues include; Internal political issues, bilateral relations, human rights, counter-terrorism cooperation, Sub-Saharan Africa, regional issues including Iraq and Iran, and energy sector and commercial opportunities.

In the classified cable Stevens describes Libya as a “strong partner in the war against terrorism and cooperation in liaison channels is excellent…Worried that fighters returning from Afghanistan and Iraq could destabilize the regime, the GOL has aggressively pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, an blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam.”

However, since this explanation lends itself to possible criminal actions requiring jail time, and since the CIA doesn’t post a roster of their agents, American’s will undoubtedly remain in the dark.

Congressional hearings have produced no info on the Benghazi attack

Compelling evidence names the Benghazi’s mission as the headquarters for another U.S. arms trafficking business deal gone wrong. The mission is also the scene where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, two former SEALs and one State Department Information Officer were murdered.

Keeping that statement in mind, the Benghazi disaster takes a new angle, one that could have derailed President Obama’s reelection.

Normally international gun trafficking is a punishable crime, but sadly, not only is Benghazi, Libya another U.S. sanctioned-weapons buyback program paying jihadist large sums of money to turn in their stolen arsenal, but it appears that Ambassador Stevens acted as a point man to move those newly-repurchased weapons into the hands of Syrian rebels, many of whom are affiliated with al-Qaeda.

This made for Hollywood movie script includes all the action, violence and drama required for today’s bloodthirsty audience—except it is real. The State Department provided the Benghazi mission with the diplomatic cover, or the comprehensive alibi, required for the Central Intelligence Agency to operate covertly in the jihadi-rich North African region.

If this is true, one could conclude that the attack on the Benghazi mission was a counterinsurgency operation launched by terrorists that opposed another American-installed government in the Middle East.

Conclusion

Other than closed-door hearing leaks from members of Congress, American citizens are still no closer to learning what exactly happened in Benghazi. Nor are they privy to “why” the terrorist organization that worked with the U.S., specifically Ambassador Stevens, would turn their weapons on the mission.

Perhaps Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will provide more details when she testifies before the House and Senate later this month. However most politicos agree she will provide more “fog of spin” the Obama administration is standing by.

The only new update is the arrest of a suspected terrorist this weekend in Egypt.

Most major media outlets reported that Egyptians detained Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, a former Egyptian jihad member that was released from prison in 2011. It’s alleged that he is the leader of Jamal network that operates terror-training camps in Egypt and Libya and who wanted to set up al-Qaeda inside Egypt. But like everything connected to Benghazi, U.S. officials haven’t been cleared to interrogate convicted terrorist who may be responsible for the death of four Americans.

Posted on 12/12/2012 7:41 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
In Marseille, Those Who Slit The Throat Of A French Lawyer Are Picked Up

The suspects are those you -- and all of the French commenters on the story, that appeared in lefigaro.fr here -- suspected. A father in his 50s, and his two sons, who slit the throat of a French woman in her 60s. Signs of the times, in Muslim-filled and crime-ridden Marseille, where the writ of the government hardly runs.

Read not only the story, but the many comments below.

Posted on 12/12/2012 10:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
A Musical Interlude: The Little White House (Mieczyslaw Fogg)
Listen here.
Posted on 12/12/2012 10:50 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Telling the media the truth that it doesn't want to hear

In a 10th December 2012 briefing by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Foreign Press Corps, he bluntly stated the truth that the international media doesn’t want the world to hear, especially with regard to the bad faith displayed by the "Palestinians" in the so-called "peace process". However, his statement is unlikely to make much impact - see below for an extract (source: Israeli Embassy, Dublin):

Four years ago, the day I took office, I called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians – direct negotiations without any preconditions. For four years, the Palestinians have avoided my call for direct negotiations. They continue to avoid it today.
 
Israel has taken many steps over these four years to advance direct talks. I spoke at Bar-Ilan University about a two-state solution, two states for two peoples – a Jewish state for the Jewish people, a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. I can tell you that as the leader of the Likud, this was not a simple speech to make. But I did. The Palestinians didn’t come to the talks.

Israel removed hundreds of roadblocks, checkpoints, earth ramps. By so doing facilitated the movement of Palestinian people and goods. Still the Palestinians refused to come to the talks.
 
I implemented a ten month freeze on new construction in the settlements – something no Israeli leader did before me. And still, the Palestinians refused to come to the talks. After nine months, they deigned to speak to Israel for a few hours, that's it, in order to demand an additional freeze. No substance of talks.
 
In July, 2011, when the United States tabled a proposal to launch negotiations, renewed negotiations, this was based on President Obama’s two speeches, Israel said it was willing to consider this. The Palestinians refused.

When the government of Jordan came up with suggestions on how to launch talks, Israel agreed, the Palestinians refused.

I think the facts are clear to anyone who wants to see them.

Year after year, the Palestinians piled up precondition upon precondition. In 2009, it was a settlement freeze; in 2010, it was Israel’s agreement in advance to the 1967 border; in 2011, it was the release of all Palestinian prisoners. Who knows what preconditions the future holds?

The reason the Palestinians avoided negotiations for the past four years is a very simple one. They avoided negotiations because they were prepared to take concessions from Israel but they were not prepared to make concessions to Israel.

They were not prepared to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. They were not prepared to finally end the conflict with it. They were not prepared to seriously address Israel’s security needs. In fact, we had one meeting proposed in Jordan in which we wanted to simply lay out our security concerns. They absolutely refused to hear even a word of it.

The Palestinians could afford to avoid these negotiations because the international community exacted no price whatsoever for the Palestinian failure to negotiate in good faith.

The decision of the Palestinians to go to the United Nations is simply the next step in their strategy to avoid direct negotiations with Israel.

Again, they’re trying to take concessions without making concessions in return, and this is unacceptable to Israel. […]

Peace will not be achieved through one-sided resolutions at the UN that ignore Israel’s security interests and our national needs.
 
I regret the fact that the Palestinians have wasted the last four years and I sincerely hope they won’t waste the next four years.
 
We both need peace, our children deserve it, our people deserve it, and there’s only one way to achieve it: through bilateral negotiations, direct negotiations without preconditions. That was and remains our positions.
 
The UN resolution simply ignored Israel’s security needs, just wasn’t mentioned. Remember, we vacated territory, in Lebanon first, then in Gaza. We walked out and Iran and its terror proxies walked in. We have real security concerns. Everybody can understand that. Not that resolution. It simply ignored it, completely.

This resolution said nothing about the Palestinians’ need to recognize the Jewish state. It didn’t call on the Palestinians to end their conflict with Israel. And for all these reasons, Israel opposed it. This is why we called on other countries to oppose it.

The Palestinians decision to go to the UN was a material breach of the peace accords. It was an attempt to establish unacceptable terms of reference for negotiations. And it was an attempt to upgrade the Palestinian capability to wage a legal and diplomatic war against Israel.

Israel will not accept that.

The decisions we made following the UN resolution should make it perfectly clear that Israel will continue to defend its vital security and national interests.

This weekend, the leader of Hamas, sitting next to the Hamas leader of Gaza, a man who praised Osama bin-Laden, openly called for the destruction of Israel. Where was the outreach? Where were the UN resolutions? Where was President Abbas? Why weren’t Palestinian diplomats summoned to European and other capitols, to explain why the PA President not only refused to condemn this, but actually declared his intention to unite with Hamas? Where was all this? There was nothing. There was silence, and it was deafening silence.
 
We can’t accept that. We can’t accept that when Jews build homes in their ancient capitol of Jerusalem, the international community has no problem finding its voice, but when Palestinian leaders openly call for the destruction of Israel, for the one and only Jewish state, the world is silent. […]
 
All successive governments for the last 45 years, I think 45 years, from Levi Eshkol’s government on to Yitzhak Rabin’s government, through to Shimon Peres, through Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and so on, and down to my government in the present, built in these areas. They recognized that certain urban blocs, really three suburbs where we just announced that we’re going to build. There are three suburbs, two of Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim and Gush Etzion, and the third, Ariel as a suburb of Tel Aviv. Everybody recognized that these blocs, these urban blocs will remain as part of a final settlement of peace, and I know of no proposal and no plan ever raised by an Israeli government that didn’t include these blocs.
 
I can also tell you that based on the al-Jazeera leaks, this was even recognized by the Palestinian side. Everybody understands that these neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, these suburbs really, are going to remain in Israel, and part of Israel, in a final settlement of peace. The same applies to the narrow corridor that connects Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem. This was part of all the plans, from Yitzhak Rabin’s time to Olmert’s before me, and there’s been no change. So in that sense it’s a continuous policy.
 
I do have to say that I don’t understand how people say this will prevent, territorially, a Palestinian state that cannot exist if Ma’ale Adumim is connected to Jerusalem. These are the same people, the same people who say that you’ll have a continuous state between Gaza and Judea & Samaria – the West Bank, and they’re divided by 60-70 kilometers. That’s fine. That doesn’t preclude a Palestinian state in their minds. But the fact that Ma’ale Adumim would be connected to Jerusalem in a corridor that is 2-3 kilometers long, that somehow prevents a Palestinian state. That’s not true. It’s simply false. The unfortunate thing is you can repeat a falsehood endlessly and it assumes the cache of self-evident truth. It’s not true. It’s neither a new policy on my part, nor does it prejudice the final outcome of peace. 

Indeed there is a fifteen kilometre gap at its narrowest point between the E1 development and the Dead Sea so by no stretch of the imagination does the E1 prevent a contiguous Palestinian state. Similarly such a short corridor can’t by any means prevent access for a Palestinian state to Jerusalem. The very idea is an absurdity that the international media, and interfering politicians the world over, have been peddling for around a decade.

Posted on 12/12/2012 1:44 PM by Robert Harris
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
The Martin Guitar: How America catches tunes

As I turned off the highway to enter the town of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, I could not contain my excitement. In my mind’s ear I could hear that classic 1970s hit song The Weight, penned by the Canadian born guitarist of The Band, Robbie Robertson:

I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin’ about half past dead
I just needed some place where I can lay my head,
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said.

Nazareth Pennsylvania is the factory town of C.F. Martin and Co. Established in 1833, for the last 180 years they have been producing merica’s best acoustic guitars. German émigré master guitar maker Christian Frederick Martin Sr. established the company and it has maintained family ownership ever since, now under the successful management of Christian Frederick (“Chris”) Martin the IV, born in 1955. It is one of America’s most unique, longest-lasting family businesses.

Dissatisfied with the hierarchical, guild-like structure of the Early-19th-century German guitar-making scene, master guitar maker Martin took his commitment to excellence across the ocean and provided an ever democratizing country with the instrument that has come to express its artistic soul, eventually building his factory in Nazareth after having first established his reputation with the guitar players and musical instrument wholesalers of pre-Civil War New York City and its environs.

Virtually every major figure in modern folk, rock, blues, folk rock and country either plays a Martin or has played one; Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Robbie Robertson, The Kingston Trio, Johnny Cash, Bess and Alan Lomax, Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry and Big Bill Broonzy. Last but not least, yours truly — committed folk guitarist, singer and proud owner of two Martin guitars.

The Martin Company is aware that so many clients have a desire to see, feel and experience the factory where their instrument was born. And so every day at 11:30 a.m. you can sign up for a one-hour tour of the factory. When the tour guide asked us who owned or had played a Martin almost everyone raised his or her hand. Clearly, here I stood among the blessed, and with these other visitors I began my great guitar pilgrimage at the source of good sound.

Although the average Martin guitar is made up of many dozens of parts and many of them have at one time or another received the attention of up to three hundred people working on at least one aspect of them, the factory still employs considerable hand craftsmanship and has a 19th- or early 20th-century feel to it. As we walked along the assembly line we saw focused artisans, men and women, diligently working at their stations, calm, determined yet relaxed, and no doubt delighted to be doing what they clearly love to. In the sober and undemonstrative spirit of the Moravian German and Pennsylvania Dutch who give this state its work ethic, Martin workers create upwards of 100,000 high-quality guitars each year, ranging in price from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand dollars. And since Chris Martin took over, management has implemented a profit sharing program for the employees that can increase their annual take home pay significantly. (Is anyone in Washington listening?)

As we moved from station to station I was intoxicated by the sweet smell of the koa, alpine spruce, mahogany and other kinds of wood that they use to make Martin guitars, by the smell of the glue, the sound of saws and the scent of polish that emanates from various work stations. Most of the important guitar making processes are still largely done by hand, such as the neck shaping, neck fitting, final neck fitting (once is not enough!), side bending, bracing, and pearl inlay work (my jeweler wife wanted to leave the tour and start working with the inlayers immediately). I was particular struck by the use of old-fashioned wooden clothespins that are used to line the ribbons in the body of the guitar. Craftsmen discovered that they worked best sometime in the late 1880s, and nothing better has been found that does the trick.

Once the guitars are finished they receive a final inspection where keen-eared guitarist workers string up the guitars and listen to theirsound to insure that the overall quality is controlled; just ears and eyes, no machines for this task. Had I known about this job so many years ago after I had just finished my degree in music, I would have immediately applied for it. Not surprisingly, during the course of the day I discovered that the factory has five times as many guitar players as in the surrounding neighbourhoods, in an around Nazareth.

Although it feels like the guitar is a late 19th-century and largely 20th-century phenomena driven by the rise of “hillbilly” and blues singer instrumentalists, the guitar has been around for a long, long time. It first arrived in the New World in the 1500s with the Spanish conquistadores and was played at St. Augustine in Florida. The Catholic orders of the Ursulines and the Augustines taught the guitar in the early 1600s in Quebec and French speaking Creoles made the guitar part of their lives in early 19th-century Louisiana.

Although it was largely thought of and used as a classical instrument even in early Spanish America, popular singers quickly took it up. Guitar historian David K. Bradford quotes a Spanish noble who already in 1611 laments that, “Now the guitar is no more than a cow bell, there is not a stable lad who is not a musician on the guitar.” This tendency to use the guitar as a chordal background for light or professional balladeers would only grow with time.

During the first half of the 19th century the urban elites in what was once the 13 Colonies that came to be the United States were developing an urban culture that closely imitated London and the capitals of Europe. There the piano reigned supreme as the instrument that best reflected the sentiments of the time. By the mid 19th century the largest influx of immigrants to America came from German speaking central Europe and so the strains of Mozart and Beethoven could be heard in the concert halls of the Eastern seaboard and in the houses of the rich.

But the piano was not to go unchallenged. During the 1830s and 1840s America was hit by what was then called “guitarmania.” At that time continental classical guitar virtuosos such as Sor and Giulani were taking the English concert halls by storm and they were widely imitated among elites in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. The demand was so high that famous musicians such as Spanish classical guitarist and composer A.T. Huerta moved from Spain to New York on the crest of this wave to make a successful career in classical guitar in the New World. By that time C.F. Martin, Sr. was well established in New York and was making “gut” stringed guitars that were the all the rage among the middle classes. He was also importing a relatively wide array of musical instruments from Prussia that he offered for sale in his small music shop.

As the Spanish guitar was adopted by English speaking Americans, despite the fact that the repertoire came from Italy and Spain, Americans began to use the guitar to sing the parlor songs and popular music that was beginning to distinguish the American middle classes from their British and European counterparts. This was part of the 19th-century belief system called the “cult of domesticity” which assumed that a women’s role in the house was to domesticate the baser sentiments and provide a haven in a heartless world.

And so the guitar became the parlor instrument extraordinaire, a kind of American anti piano where people would learn a few chords and “catch tunes,” which was the expression they used for self-taught playing and singing of the music of Stephen Foster with songs like his Camptown Races or pieces from the minstrel stage such as Dan Emmet’s song, Dixie Land.

Although the guitar was largely seen as a female instrument in the northern United States, men among the slave-owning states of the South avidly took it up. Soon the slaves of the southern plantation owners were adopting it. We read that one of the most famous military leaders of the confederacy, General J.E.B. Stuart, engaged an entourage of African-American musicians, singers and dancers who would entertain him and his guests and which included a guitarist; evidence of the “trickle down” of the guitar from oppressor to the oppressed. (It was these men’s children who would invent the blues and whose descendants, like Bluesman Big Bill Broonzy and Reverend Gary Davis, played Martin guitars).

Once the rage for European guitar music had abated, the guitar and even more so the banjo became the central instruments of the most popular American music of the 19th and early 20th century, “Blackface” minstrelsy, which combined a whole range of genres but which for the first time mixed the Anglo-Celtic and African-American traditions of American folk music and created a nation-wide popular music tradition best experienced at the rural “Medicine Shows.”

The four-part vocal harmonies that eventually were added to this tradition came from Central Europe as, once again, mid-century America was a awash with Alpine music singing groups where the guitar was featured, with names like the Tyrolese Minstrels, who in turn influenced the most famous American minstrel group, The Christy Minstrels. One of the most interesting characters of the 19th-century blackface minstrelsy movement was Napoleon Gould. He was a white man born in England in 1819. In the course of his early career as a guitarist, banjo player and singer he became smitten with minstrelsy and like Huerta before him set out for fame and fortune in the New World. He ended up playing with Pierce’s Minstrels, the Christy Minstrels as well as Bryant’s and Campell’s minstrels. Gould’s career goes some way to explaining what looks like an unprecedented cultural phenomena where after the Second World War, white Englishmen like Eric Clapton and John Mayall fell in love with African-American music (in this case, the blues), mastered it and then made their fortunes from it in the U.S. It has happened before.

C.F. Martin was lucky, for he established his business in Pennsylvania just before the Civil War when guitar mania was taking over America. He managed to economically survive the war and provide better guitars (as well as banjos) for the parlor and Minstrel craze, which took over the U.S. in the mid to second half of the 19th century.

Guitar makers, however, had not yet adjusted to the sonic needs of growing audiences and outdoor venues such as travelling medicine shows. Martin, his descendants and inheritors successfully managed the great transition to heavier-built guitars with steel strings (giving much greater volume) and which was strengthened by the Hawaiian guitar craze of the early 1900s. Soon after Martin, six-string steel guitars became instruments of choice for the black blues musicians and the white hillbilly and, later, country and western musicians who came to define 20th-century American popular music.

From the start the Martin family had often done their own limited marketing and occasionally sold specially ornamented guitars to high profile players, such as country singer Jimmie Rodgers in 1927 and a little while later, Gene Autry. By the time of the first and second folk song revivals of the 1950s and 1960s, the Martin guitar in its many incarnations was the instrument of choice for most American Roots musicians.

During my tour, Dick Boak — Martin archivist, illustrator, musician and occasional luthier — showed me the original account books from the first C.F. Martin in the late 1830s.The penmanship was exquisite and I was thrilled to touch something that the first Mr. Martin himself wrote upon; another sacred act in my great guitar pilgrimage.

Dick is the mastermind behind Martin’s Signature editions. He sought out the most famous and charity minded music stars that use Martins and together they designed a limited edition of an upgraded version of the Martin that had propelled that star to fame. Profits from the sales went to charity. Dick tells the story of this remarkable endeavour in his beautiful coffee table book [ital]Martin Guitar Masterpieces[endital]. Looking at the guitars preferred by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez and Eric Clapton, we can only admire the artistry and craftsmanship that makes Martin the pinnacle of American guitar artistry.

When I got home, I poured myself a glass of whiskey and sat down by the fire. I took out my Martin D-28 and picked out an old-time tune that had been recorded by Alan Lomax in Kentucky in 1937. The strings sounded like church bells. I had “pulled into Nazareth” and I was home now. My great guitar pilgrimage was over.

First published in the National Post.

Posted on 12/12/2012 4:17 PM by Geoffrey Clarfield
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Ramses The Car
Watch the Dreams Of Industrial Glory documentary here.
Posted on 12/12/2012 9:02 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
The West: Millions For Tribute, Not One Cent For Defense

What about "Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead" as a strategy?

From The New York Times:


December 12, 2012

Millions in Ransoms Fuel Militants’ Clout in West Africa

BAMAKO, Mali — Oumar Ould Hamaha, a notorious Islamist commander in the deserts of western Africa, has nothing but disdain for the international powers he opposes or the hapless Westerners he and other militants subject to extreme deprivation, hunger, thirst and proselytizing for months on end.

But he openly appreciates them for helping Islamists acquire the one thing they cannot do without.

“Lots of Western countries are paying enormous sums to the jihadists,” he said in a telephone interview from northern Mali, crowing about the hefty ransoms militants have collected in the region. “The source of our financing is the Western countries. They are paying for jihad.”

Kidnapping is such a lucrative industry for extremists in western Africa, netting them tens of millions of dollars in recent years, that it has reinforced their control over northern Mali and greatly complicated plans for an African-led military campaign to take back Islamist-held territory.

Beyond the immediate risk to the 10 Europeans and 3 Algerians still being held — “At the first strike, the hostages will have their throats cut like chickens, one after the other,” Mr. Hamaha threatened — an intervention could face formidable opponents. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, one of the factions that have seized northern Mali, is estimated to have amassed as much as $90 million or more in ransoms over the past decade, turning it into one of the region’s wealthiest, best-armed militant groups.

But Mali and its neighbors are still scrambling to cobble together soldiers, money and a workable plan to recapture lost ground. In fact, Mali, which is supposed to lead the international offensive against the Islamists, does not even have a stable government. On Tuesday, the nation’s prime minister resigned after being arrested by soldiers the night before, part of the continuing political disarray that allowed the Islamists to take the north in the first place.

As the United Nations debates plans for a military intervention in northern Mali, Islamists in the region appear to be on the hunt for more hostages. Three weeks ago, a French tourist was abducted in Mali and five humanitarian workers were seized in Niger in October, after a lull in kidnappings that lasted for months.

The abductions often follow the same frightening script: a sudden burst of movement, usually in the dark; guttural orders and shoves at gunpoint; then days of harsh driving deep into the desert.

The days stretch into weeks, months and even years in a sea of sand, waiting for deliverance or death. A gaunt acacia thorn-tree might be the only shade, the desert ground the only bed, and water — when it is given — often comes from a gasoline jerrycan.

“I lived through an experience that is absolutely unimaginable,” said Françoise Larribe, a Frenchwoman kidnapped in 2010 in northern Niger, where her husband was working at a uranium mine operated by the French company Areva. Her husband, Daniel, is still a captive; she was released unexpectedly after five and a half months that were “extremely tough.”

“The separation from my husband was rapid and painful,” she added.

Mr. Hamaha was with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb when he helped kidnap a Canadian diplomat, Robert Fowler, late one December afternoon in 2008 outside the capital of Niger, Niamey. Now the jihadist says he is “in charge of security” for the Malian offshoot of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Mujao, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, another of the three radical groups that control northern Mali.

The brigade commanded by Mr. Hamaha zoomed ahead of the diplomat’s car in “a slick, violent, well-coordinated and impeccably executed grab,” Mr. Fowler wrote in a new memoir, “A Season in Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda.” He and an aide were on their way to dinner in the capital.

He lived through weeks of fear, sleeping on the sand, exposed to the brutal Sahara sun, to snakes and scorpions, fed meager bowls of rice, bounced from barren desert outpost to outpost.

“I spent nearly five months terrified,” Mr. Fowler said in a recent interview. “I was terrified that it would end in a tent with a knife at my throat, and my family would see it on YouTube.”

Mr. Hamaha, his captor, who takes calls from reporters, said: “Ah yes, the Canadian that we kidnapped. I don’t regret it at all. He was in a state of being lost,” referring to what he considered the Westerner’s perilous spiritual condition. The Canadian, Mr. Hamaha said, “learned many things from us.”

During his captivity Mr. Fowler, who was the United Nations special envoy to Niger, gained perhaps the sharpest insight yet into the mentality of some of the men who now hold northern Mali. “There’s no doubt of their faith: they would sit chanting in the full Sahara sun for hour after hour.”

The man who helped negotiate Mr. Fowler’s release during months of tortuous negotiations, Moustapha Chafi, an adviser to several governments in the region, described the Islamists’ mind-set as “total fanaticism.”

Still, Mr. Fowler added: “They are realists in the sense that they understand realpolitik. They understand pressure on governments.”

Some hostages have been killed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — including a British tourist, Edwin Dyer, in 2009, and a French humanitarian worker, Michel Germaneau, in 2010 — and the kidnappers have penetrated the heart of the region’s capitals, seizing two young Frenchmen in a Niamey restaurant in early 2011. The two, in town for a wedding, were killed hours later during a failed rescue attempt.

Only a few countries, including Britain, the United States and Algeria, have publicly stated their refusal to pay ransoms to terrorists. Other European nations have a much more ambiguous attitude, evidently paying to free their citizens without admitting to it. In France, “the authorities have never officially or publicly proscribed the paying of ransoms,” stated a French parliamentary report from last March.

The report recommended that “thought be given” to a change in policy so that ransom payments stop. “Giving in to terrorists amounts to financing them, and thus supporting what they do,” it said.[how much did that report, solemnly concluding the bloomin' obvious, cost?] The report cited an Algerian estimate that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had received up to $150 million in ransoms over the last decade, a number it said was probably too high. A separate analysis by Stratfor, a private firm, put the amount at nearly $90 million.

The price of freeing Western hostages appears to be growing. “In 2010, the average ransom payment per hostage to A.Q.I.M. was $4.5 million; in 2011, that figure was $5.4 million,” David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an October speech. He added that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had probably profited more from kidnapping than any other Qaeda affiliate.

Four of the five humanitarian workers kidnapped in October were later released — one had died of his wounds — because the Islamists had evidently been looking for a European and seized the aid workers, who were from Niger and Chad, by mistake.

Last month, there was no such error. “The bandits pointed their weapons; they took the white man away,” said Checkné Cissé, an official in Diéma, in western Mali, recounting the Nov. 20 kidnapping of a Frenchman, Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, by seven masked and turbaned gunmen.

A 61-year-old retiree, Mr. Leal was touring the area in a specially outfitted camper; he had stopped in the village and was chatting with some youths when Islamists appeared out of the darkness, Mr. Cissé said. Several days later, he surfaced on a video pleading, grim-faced, for negotiations to speed his release; two masked gunmen were on either side of him and a black Islamist flag was in the background.

With obstacles to a quick military intervention in northern Mali piling up, the desert imprisonment of the 13 hostages is both an incentive and a hindrance for Western nations.

Mr. Fowler’s experience with his captors veered unnervingly between odd formality and earnest discussion to casual brutality: the “unstable” younger members of the group did not hesitate to “put sand in our food and walk over our faces” while he and his aide, Louis Guay, slept.

While defeating the extremists militarily might not seem difficult, Mr. Fowler said, he cautioned that “we should be modest and reasonable about our expectations. I cannot conceive of the elimination of A.Q.I.M.”
Posted on 12/12/2012 10:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Why Should Western Technological Advances Be Open To Access To Anyone Conducting, In Any Way, Jihad?

Facebook takes down Pakistan Taliban page

Part

SITE Intelligence Group

Part of the Pakistan Taliban's Facebook page that has now been removed.

Facebook removed a page set up by the Taliban in Pakistan, after a monitoring group reported on its existence as a fresh example of a social media tool being used for the recruitment of terrorists.

SITE, a non-governmental organization that monitors terrorist propaganda online and how terrorist groups use the Internet, called attention on Dec. 3 to the Facebook page that belonged to Umar Media TTP, the media arm of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Noted was Umar Media's October posting for "online job opportunities" for "video editing, translations, sharing, uploading, downloading and collection of required data." 

Then, in late November, page administrators posted a new item seeking writers, SITE said in its report. The Facebook solicitation said, in part:

Dear brothers and sisters 'Pen is mightier than the sowrd [sic]' Now you have a chance to use this mighty weapon.

“'AHYAH-E-KHILAFAT' is an official quarterly magazine of 'TEHREEEK-E-TALIBAN PAKISTAN'.

“Would you like to be a writer for 'AHYAH-E-KHILAFAT'?

"Umar Media's recruitment drive highlights the extent to which Jihadist groups recruit online as well as the professionalism of Jihadist propaganda production houses," SITE said in its report.

The page, which Facebook took offline in the past few weeks, has not been the only Taliban-related one on Facebook — there are others, including one supportive of the Afghanistan Taliban and another about Taliban news (neither of which appear to be very active).

A Facebook spokesperson told NBC News in an email that the social network — with more than 1 billion users worldwide now — does have rules that "bar direct statements of hate, attacks on private individuals and groups and the promotion of terrorism."

"We have a large team of professional investigators both in the U.S. and abroad who enforce these rules," the spokesperson said. 

"Where abusive content is posted and reported, Facebook removes it and disables accounts of those responsible. Whenever we become aware of possible violations of our terms, we will investigate these instances and take action if violations of our statements of rights and responsibilities take place."

Facebook, however, will not comment on specific pages, other than to tell NBC News: "Yes, we have removed the page."

The SITE report suggested that the group knew it might not stay visible on Facebook. "Knowing that their Facebook account may be taken down, the call for contributors was also posted on a page for the 'Ghaza-E-Hind' Facebook group." That group no longer appears to be on the social network, either.

The Pew Research Center's new report about social networking worldwide says that those in Arab countries are more likely than others around the globe to use sites like Facebook and Twitter to talk politics and religion, finding freedom of expression flowing more easily online than in real life, although several Middle Eastern countries having squelched Internet use at various times in recent years.

In more recent months, online propaganda campaigns even monitored the moment-by-moment actions of war in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

"It's a new method (of propaganda) added onto other methods," Charles Ries, former ambassador to Greece and vice president of the international division of the RAND Corporation, told NBC News at that time. "Both sides combine whatever they do in kinetic fashion with an effort to mobilize international opinion."

Posted on 12/12/2012 10:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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