May 19, 2002
A NERD’S TALE OF REVENGE, as told by Josh Trevino.
A NERD’S TALE OF REVENGE, as told by Josh Trevino.
THE SECRET BRINK LINDSEY / ADAM WEST CONNECTION has gone public at last.
PUNDITWATCH is up!
EUGENE VOLOKH HAS an oped on the Second Amendment and on the Bush Administration’s position thereon. He also has this accompanying timeline of Second Amendment analysis that suggests that the Bush/Ashcroft position represents the norm, and the prior position a departure from the norm, as against the previous two centuries or so.
BY THE WAY, I’m in the process of moving to a new server. My hosting difficulties seem to be solved. The InstaPundit.Com URL will take you there once everything’s up and running, but I’ll post further notices.
THAT’S IT FOR A WHILE. I’m continuing the new policy of limited blogging on weekends.
THE BLAME GAME: Eric Olsen has a pretty long post on Al Qaeda activities through the 1990s, and how they were ignored. He concludes: “There is plenty of blame to go around. Let’s learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.”
CBS UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh has preserved a screenshot of the original story for posterity’s sake.
NADERISM OF THE WEEK: “Fast food restaurants are weapons of mass destruction,” according to Nader speaking in France. (Via Matt Welch).
READER HAMISH CAMPBELL also opposes a boycott of France:
Like many Scotsmen, I find myself rather conflicted with regard to France. The ties of ‘Auld Alliance’ go back to 1295 and strange as it might sound to some, that actually does count for something even now to people like me. Yet contrary to what others might think, England too is not an enemy… a rival at times yes, but in the final analysis, our customs are more akin to our brothers in London and our even cousins in New York than our mistress in Paris.
I see the Franco-German dominated EU as not just harmful and misguided an endeavour, but indicative of how the truth of the matter is that what I hear called the Anglosphere more and more in various blogs really does exist and France is not in any real way a part of that. Our old liberties, hard won yet hanging in the balance this very day across BOTH the United Kingdom and the United States, can be better secured by cutting the ties of government to socialist Brussels for Britain and a closer association between both the United Kingdom and the United States. Not union, mind you, for whilst the USA has much to admire, it has other things to abominate, such as its over-mighty taxation ‘service’ which makes our Inland Revenue seem like kittens, a legal system seemingly designed to maximize the revenues of the legal profession and the fact un-enumerated rights are in reality in the USA second class rights compared to those in the written constitution.
Yet regardless of gibes about ‘cheese eating surrender monkeys’ so beloved of many blogs, the French, rather than the corrupt French Republic, have much to commend them. To dismiss a people such as they as all hopelessly anti-Semitic and mindlessly anti-American is, as the good folks on Libertarian Samizdata have pointed out, to paint a people with a grotesque broad brush. A French reader wrote to Instapundit telling Glenn Reynolds he would be happy to see France become the next US state! Obviously this will never happen…hell, I am usually said to be an Atlanticist and I would not actually want to see the UK actually join the USA… but it does show that
there are French people who do not take the racist Le Pen or ‘little France’ Chirac world view.
Boycotting France to ‘punish’ the French people for the views of some would be rather like boycotting the USA because of the existence of the KKK, the Aryan nation and Susan Sontag. It will be ineffective at best and harmful at worst to the very causes the boycott seeks to further. I shall continue to take my holidays in the Loire valley, I shall continue to argue for British withdrawal from the EU and I shall continue to argue for the tolerant ‘small c’ conservative values that I belive underpins any civilised
society and allow it to resist the siren call of irrational racist or ethnic hatreds.
Boycotts have their time and place but I cannot see the value of trying to boycott all of France other than allowing some loud mouthed pressure groups to try and gain some attention for themselves.
Hmm. That “mistress in Paris” sounded pretty good until I figured out what Campbell meant. I still think that the French will come around. They have perhaps the worst political class in Europe (which is saying something — and it’s not like I think the American political class is any great prize) but Campbell is right that the real problem is there, not among the populace, for the most part.
PERRY DE HAVILLAND weighs in against the “boycott France” movement.
FREUDIAN SLIP? Better visit this CBS story fast because they’ll probably fix this:
The Washington Post said Saturday that a top-secret briefing memo presented to President Bush in 1998 focused on efforts by Osama bin Laden to strike at targets in the U.S.
Um, President who in 1998? I’ve been pretty hard on the Bush Administration over this — and especially on the lame spin the Administration is offering — but this just might suggest that some other people have a bit of an agenda.
UPDATE: Reader Billy Hollis (along with a host of others) writes:
The story with the “Freudian slip” now reads:
The Washington Post reported Saturday that a 1998 top-secret briefing memo to the president was entitled, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S” and focused mainly on past efforts by the alleged terrorist mastermind to infiltrate the U.S. and hit targets here.
Notice that the memo is just “to the president” and refrains from mentioning Clinton.
And to think there are still folks who claim the media is not biased….
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
Not only does the CBS “correction” not mention Clinton by name, but it also further excuses him by emphasizing that the report focused on the past efforts of Osama Bin Laden. Clinton, defensive about his own responsibility (as always) and how his lapses may have contributed to September 11th, is surely thankful that CBS so graciously makes the effort here to deny him psychic abilities. Get the picture: Clinton is the quintessential victim blind-sided by the bad guys. Bush is a man of questionable motives, willing to sacrifice what he knows will be thousands of American lives to push forward his agenda–a war that will ensure his popularity. Only a nutcase like Cynthia McKinney is dumb enough to spout such theories publicly. But such ideas are bound to be intoxicating for those who are squeamish with how new realities threaten the old orthodoxies that have served as the bedrock of leftist thought for the past 35 years. And such notions inform the not-so-subtle spins of CBS reporting.
HEADS ROLLING: Josh Marshall says the 9/11 intelligence problems were more likely systemic than the result of dereliction of duty. Michael Ledeen says that letting Congress investigate is like letting the Madam investigate a brothel and John Ellis more or less agrees, calling for an independent inquiry. Robert Musil has has questions for Sens. Daschle and Clinton about next time. And The Bear says we should focus on the bottom line:
Should Tenet or Rice or Mueller get fired for their respective failures to prevent 9/11? Maybe. I don’t have enough information yet to form a judgment. But the criteria I’ll apply in making that judgment will not be whether they “deserve” it, or whether a Clinton appointee in their place would be fired — it will be whether removing them from office will improve, or harm, this country’s ability to defend itself.
Yes, that’s true. (UPDATE: Rand Simberg emails to point out that Tenet was a Clinton appointee.) On the other hand, defense/intelligence establishments where no one suffers for mistakes don’t generally improve a country’s ability to defend itself.
CRANKY PROFESSOR MICHAEL TINKLER spots what looks to be another lie by Michael Bellesiles:
What’s driving this post is that one of my friends worked as his graduate assistant in 1988-89 (we think). He was good to work for – he had reasonable ideas about how much time a second-year graduate student should devote to someone else?s research, and the work was not too horrible (by the standards of humanities research). She spent all year in the microforms area the basement of the library reading probate records. She was counting guns and entering the numbers into a spreadsheet. . . .
Professor Bellesiles had, like all professors in the history department, access to graduate assistants in (almost) any term he decided he needed one. Emory, like many graduate schools in the humanities, lets students take their first year to become accustomed to graduate work – nothing required of the students in exchange for the fellowship but course work. Then in the second year most departments require an assistantship or internship. My friend was Bellesiles’ graduate assistant in 1988.
I emailed her late last month to ask about this – and to point out that he claimed to have done it all alone. She agreed that she had been counting guns. Her instructions were to count anything that might be a misspelled gun as a gun, which she feels this tends to prove that Professor Bellesiles was not intentionally understating the count. She then entered this data on a Lotus spreadsheet.
Crash go two of his claims – no help, and all his work was on yellow legal pads
This is pretty damning stuff, and from a fellow professor of history, no less. Be sure you read the entire post, as the excerpt above telescopes some imporant aspects. Cranky Professor Michael Tinkler promises more, too.
JEFF GOLDSTEIN identifies a serious problem with today’s young people. At least, he thinks it’s a problem.
ANANDA GUPTA says the Empire could kick Starfleet’s ass!
CRIME IN EUROPE: More support for Matt Welch’s theory that it’s like New York in the 1980s. Or was that Matthew Yglesias’s theory?
HERE’S AN AMUSING REPORT on journalists talking about journalism. The names have been changed to protect the guilty:
A message they endeavored to convey was how hard they work, which they did with the insistent tone of someone who, being acquainted with no other type of employment, has deluded himself into thinking that his work is somehow more taxing than that of other professions. Interestingly, the allusions to difficult work were always adjacent to an anecdote that suggested the opposite. Smug Susan, for example, explained that she came upon a story of which she is proud when an environmentalist called and gave her the information: “So I made a couple of phone calls, and found out it was true. You really have to dig.”
Hey, I do that kind of digging.
HEADS ROLLING? Reader Peter Stanley writes: “The CIA’s counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black was fired today. Just thought you’d like to know.”
Well, the Washington Post didn’t put it quite that way. In its report today it says: “In other developments yesterday, CIA officials said Cofer Black, head of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center for the past three years, has been assigned to another position. They described the move as part of normal turnover at the agency.” Now this might be a punitive transfer with obligatory mealy-mouthedness (though why, exactly, is it obligatory?) but I don’t think it counts as a “firing.”
UPDATE: Stanley writes: “That’s what I get for reading DEBKA.” Yeah. Maybe there’s a backstory to this that would make Debka right — but they don’t have it on their site. It doesn’t look like a firing to me. And if it is a firing, it’s one that’s being handled so quietly (perhaps with Black being eased out after a decent interval) that it barely counts as one at all. Heads must not merely roll, but must be seen to roll.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Bill Clinton is now discounting the importance of warnings about Al Qaeda planning hijackings that we received during the ’90s.
THE GUARDIAN is defending its Jenin coverage, which it feels is fair and unbiased. But that it’s even noticed that its coverage needs defending is progress.
BOYCOTTING FRANCE: Reader Dominique Petitmengin writes:
Hi Glenn! I don’t mind you boycotting France so long you let us not boycotting the United States. If I can shop at Lands’End and Amazon, if I can receive the last Dick’s pick from Grateful Dead Records, if you let me visit Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley with my nefews next winter, you can write everything and more about France, I really don’t care. I hope one day that France can become the 51st state of the Union, but I don’t think you would be really pleased….The United States own many places in France: graveyards. Could we never forget that.
How utterly disarming!
WHAT IS SPAM, that thou art mindful of it? asks Brendan O’Neill. Well, actually he tells the story of some blogger who sent him a nasty email saying “stop spamming” because he sent that person (I don’t know who it was) emails about his new postings.
I’m pretty mellow about this — which is a good thing, since I get a lot of those. I don’t want to get an email every time somebody posts something new, unless they post pretty infrequently, but I’ve never sent anyone a nasty reply. I just kinda quit reading. I like to hear from people who have interesting posts, or new weblogs. There are so many blogs that I can’t possibly notice them all anymore, and if someone has something particularly up my alley I like to hear about it. (Two amusing things I find occasionally in visiting weblogs for the first time — “that bastard Reynolds is ignoring me,” from people who’ve never contacted me, and “so-and-so posted this story 5 minutes after me so they must have stolen my idea,” when the link is to a story on Slashdot or in The New York Times or some other obvious source; some people have a rather high opinion of their own originality).
On the other hand, if you’re sending me multiple emails a day, well, that’s kind of a lot. I get about 300+ a day. And nobody is as impressed with what’s obviously a mass self-promotional mailing as with something targeted to them personally that obviously takes account of their interests.
I HAVE A RATHER DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE FROM ATRIOS — and I think the “Bush Knew” graphic at the top of the page is sleaze worthy of Cynthia McKinney. But he/she is spot on (well, except for a couple of nasty en passant swipes) with this observation:
Since 9/11 I have always wondered why not a single person lost their job over that catastrophe, other than some illegal alien airport workers. I realize that following such a tragedy standing around pointing fingers is not helpful (though someone forgot to tell that to our patriots, and ex-patriates, on the Right.) However, that is not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about someone fairly high up in the leadership choosing to step forward and say “Hey, this happened on my watch. It was my job to prevent this kind of thing, and I failed, and I cannot in good conscience remain in this position. I Will remain around long enough to ensure a smooth transition, and then leave.”
Such an act would be largely symbolic, and we could expect to find the noble soul popping up somewhere else [in] government in the not too distant future, but I nonetheless always thought it should have happened. It’s called taking responsibility, and it is something people at the top should do more often.
These latest revelations speak volumes about this administration and the media who cover for them. Their inability to admit to a single mistake (at least domestically — they had little problem apologizing over the spy plane incident) causes them to spin ludicrously and yes, to lie, when it would be oh so easy to say yes, we messed up a little bit. The psychological damage this must be doing to the real victims of 9/11, and yes, to our “Homeland Security” cannot be exaggerated.
Back last fall I said heads should roll, and I got a lot of emails saying that, well, it was a crisis, we were invading Afghanistan, there were lots of Al Qaeda loose, and we couldn’t afford the disruption that a proper investigation (and punishment) would entail. Okay, fair enough. But not only have we passed the crisis phase, but there’s still no evidence that anyone is going to pay any price for screwing up. Indeed, there’s not any evidence that anyone is looking at why the right information wasn’t brought to the right people at the right time. Instead, we’re getting insultingly false remarks about how utterly unimaginable the attacks were. And I agree: it’s important that people take responsibility. Unlike Atrios, I’m not cackling with glee at seeing the Bush Administration look bad here. But should they be acting in a way that lets Atrios cackle with glee?
UPDATE: For a contrary view, see Iain Murray’s thoughts.
READER ALEX BENSKY WRITES: “I enjoyed the link to Jonathan Last’s column on Star Wars. In the interests of truth I think you should remind your readers that Star Fleet could destroy both the Empire and the Republic and not break a collective sweat.” Actually, as Steven den Beste points out, the current-day USMC could defeat ‘em single-handed.
Back when I was in high school, some of my friends figured that a good high school rifle team was worth at least a battalion of Imperial Stormtroopers, given that the former actually aimed their weapons and understood the concept of cover and concealment, while the latter showed no sign of doing so. Furthermore, that cumbersome armor doesn’t seem to be of any actual protective value.
THE U.N. has asked the Saudi regime that currently governs much of Arabia to end its practice of amputating criminals’ limbs. The Saudi regime says buzz off.
NOT WHAT THE PRESIDENT KNEW, BUT WHY HE DIDN’T KNOW: Robert Musil has some perspective.
CHORTLE. I knew if I kept it up I’d finally get a rise out of ‘em.
NAPSTER MAY BE DEAD, but file-sharing is thriving and music-industry download sites are lame, writes Janelle Brown.
JOEL KOTKIN IS A REALLY SMART GUY. His 1989 (I think) book, The Third Century was a terrific debunking of the Japanese-supremacist hysteria sweeping the American financial and political press at the time, and if you read it now you’ll be amazed at its prescience.
Now he says that the newspaper Matt Welch and Ken Layne are starting is likely to succeed. I hope he’s prescient there, too.
OKAY, I WASN’T GOING TO POST ANYMORE, but I realized I had forgotten to follow up with some of the additional Rolling Stone suggestions. The winner, however (as my earlier post may have suggested) was something along the lines of “RS can’t be saved, it’s irretrievably lame.” That said, some other suggestions included, in no particular order, Jonah Goldberg (like Jann Wenner’s really gonna do that), James Lileks, Steven den Beste, multiple votes for perennial blogosphere fave Rachael Klein, and one each for up-and-comers Dawn Olsen and Jim Treacher. Simon Reynolds (no relation) got mentioned, as did Christopher Buckley. And, unsurprisingly, Mark Steyn got several votes.
All of these people would be better than most of those writing for Rolling Stone today. And none have much of a shot (neither do Welch, Layne, or Blair, mentioned earlier.) That says some pretty bad things about Rolling Stone, but not any that we haven’t figured out on our own. To the above I’d add Stacy Osbaum, formerly editor of URB, who’s now freelancing, I think.
Personally, I think the Blogosphere is the Rolling Stone of the 21st century anyway.
UPDATE: Eric Olsen writes that he’s already written for Rolling Stone.
SFSU UPDATE: SFSU’s President copied me on this email he sent to someone else who had attached a copy of my FoxNews column:
Thank you for writing to express your deep concern about the May 7 rally on this campus. The University is unequivocally committed to maintaining both free speech and civility, and we are taking a great many steps to address issues emerging from that event, as well as to provide clear, factual information about it. We have established a web site, “SFSU’s Response to Pro-Israel Pro-Palestine Tensions on Campus,” which you can reach from the University’s home page. The web site includes information about what is being done, but much more is already in the works. I suggest you check that site periodically, as we will continue to add to it as our plans evolve through meetings and conversations with individuals from both on and off-campus. I have communicated with all SFSU faculty, students, and staff several times in recent weeks around these issues, via e-mail. Two of those messages follow.
– Robert A. Corrigan, President
You can see the messages by following the link — they’re too long to post here. The “summary of events” makes things sound a bit tamer than more contemporaneous accounts. The University says that it has videotape of the demonstrations. How about making it available on the Web?
FRENCH READER LEO LE BRUN writes:
I am faithful reader of InstaPundit.com from Rennes, France and I can’t agree more when you hit the French where it hurts: anti-semitism. Still, I cannot believe you would support a boycott on French products based on that. I don’t really like my country and plan to move back to the US (where I was a student) next year. France is indeed a deeply ambivalous country and my fellow Frenchmen often take the wrong stance on many issues. Our not supporting Israel, our criticizing of US for being ‘simplistic’, our unwillingness to join the US in attacking Sadamm and root out terror are positions that disturb me.
And so does the nonchalance of my government when it comes to horrible acts of anti-semitic hatred. These acts are comitted by young Arabs who watch the deeply biased coverage of the Middle East on T! V and feel the need to ‘get even’ by beating up Jewish teens playing soccer or setting a synaguogue on fire. I know you will tell me that’s no excuse since the Socialist government (finally over, thank God) has not done what it should have done about these horrific acts, and you would be right, because that’s the core of the problem, no matter who is behind these acts. I have been denouncing the situation on my blog (http://leolebrun.blogspot.com) for weeks, in French and English, and 90% of the reactions I received were positive. I have been linked to by Asparagirl, Diane E., Dawson.com and LGF who were relieved to see that not all the French were anti-semites or pro-Palestinian. That is why a boycott on French products is a terrible idea. We are not like the Palestinians who all seem to support terror and worship “martyrs”. Many pundits here, and most of them were not Jewish, called on the French to not accept this situation and denounced classifying antisemitic acts as part of “insécurité”, as we call crime here.
Sure there has been pro-Palestinian street demonstrations with hateful messages, but did you notice that the next day, 300.000 French people took to the same streets to express their disapointment with the Government and their support for Israel? These protestors outnumbered the pro-Palestinians 3to1! I happen to work in a field that depends on American tourists coming here and nothing would sadden me more that seeing Americans stop visiting my country. Would you boycott any product that comes from the Bay Area because lots of students at Berkeley and SFSU legitimize Palestinian terror? Would you give up Rice A Roni? I don’t think so. Please acknowledge that many Frenchmen are good people who sympathize with Israel even if they are not Jewish (you will not find somebody who is more Breton than me!);and love the US for what it stands for, even more so in these trying times. Please don’t make all Americans see France in this way, even though we have a lot of things to improve!
Well, except for minor things like Cannes, I’m not really for an actual boycott of France, much less the campaign to pave France. I have some hope that since the recent election, the French political class is beginning to awaken to reality. I hope I’m right.
Oh, and here’s a link to Leo’s blog, which is in both French and English.
UPDATE: Rand Simberg emails:
Tell Leo there were lots of reasons to give up the “San Francisco Treat”
even before all the anti-semitism out there.
And Chris Blanchard likens it to an American boycott of French Fries. “Please,” he writes, “don’t take it out on the starch.” Another reader points out that Berkeley was in fact boycotted last fall by Americans who disagreed with its anti-American stance.
TURNS OUT THAT BOYCOTTING FRANCE IS ACTUALLY THE MODERATE POSITION.
IMAGINE: Reader Harry Helms has this useful observation:
Of course the events of 9/11 were beyond the imagination of anyone in the FBI. Why is this so difficult for you to grasp?
Government jobs—and, in particular, government law enforcement jobs—attract people who DON’T want to think creatively or “out of the box.” Instead, they want to think INSIDE the box. They don’t want to use their imagination; they want a detailed set of procedures and rules to follow. If they haven’t seen it before, they can’t conceive of it. Asking the FBI to “think creatively” about possible terrorist incidents is—pardon my non-PC analogy—-like asking the blind to be architects. They simply lack essential characteristics necessary to adequately perform the task.
It’s interesting to note that other posters have cited examples from television (“The Lone Gunmen”) and fiction (Tom Clancy) of hijacked airliners used as weapons. And that’s why, in all seriousness, the government should be asking creative people to visualize new terrorist scenarios and plots. Screenwriters, novelists, and—yes—terrorists are all imaginative, while the FBI and other government drones aren’t. Creativity is just as big a weapon in this new war as missiles and guns—maybe even more so.
I think this is exactly right. To their credit, I think they’ve done some of this since 9/11.
RON K WAS PRETTY DAMNED PRESCIENT, as this post from Slate’s “The Fray” from September 17 illustrates:
Retrospective analysis will disclose a great number of warnings, alerts, leads and tips … some of them remarkably specific. Big deal.
The real trick, as always, is to distinguish genuine foresight versus the ordinary daily stream of “alerts”.
That’s why I don’t think that the government necessarily could have prevented the attacks. I just think it’s ridiculous of them to claim they couldn’t have imagined them. Note: Patrick Ruffini has some good thoughts. And Martin Devon raises the real questions. Someone should ask them to George Tenet.
UPDATE: RonK has his own, up-to-date list of questions that should be asked.
THE NEW REPUBLIC’S MICHAEL CROWLEY agrees that the “unimaginable” argument is an insult to our intelligence.
BAY AREA HATEWATCH UPDATE: I had missed this John Podhoretz column, but it’s not a pretty story:
Since the start of the year, there have been 50 documented cases of anti-Semitic acts in and around the Bay Area. That is more than three times as many as in all of 2001, according to Jonathan Bernstein of the Anti-Defamation League. He also reports that his office is the only one of the ADL’s 30 regional bureaus to note an increase in anti-Jewish incidents.
There have been serious arson attempts on two synagogues. One temple, in Berkeley, would have been destroyed had a neighbor not spotted the fire on the roof. Another, in San Francisco, was pelted with Molotov cocktails.
It’s worse at the universities. A man wearing a Jewish ritual skullcap was severely beaten on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. Students and faculty attending religious services at the Berkeley Hillel, the Jewish meeting house, were pelted with rotten eggs. The Hillel house itself has been defaced with graffiti.
The worst incident happened last week at San Francisco State University, where there is clearly no division between anti-Israel political sentiment and naked anti-Semitism.
There’s more on SFSU, as you’d expect, but I didn’t know about the beating, or the molotov cocktails.
One day, I hope, the Bay Area will become as cosmopolitan and tolerant as Knoxville.
TIM NOAH SAYS it’s all Robert Mueller’s fault.
JONAH GOLDBERG AGREES WITH JOSH MARSHALL that Cynthia McKinney is still an idiot.
DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE: Mark Steyn says it’s missing in action:
Trundling around Britain, Europe and the Middle East in recent weeks, I can’t say I detected ‘the spirit of liberty’ anywhere. I felt its absence in many places — in the impotence and fatalism of prosperous English property owners barricaded into their homes behind their window locks and laser alarms because nothing can be done about the yobboes lobbing the bollards through the bus shelter until David Blunkett comes up with a nationally applicable policy on the subject. And even then he’s likely to have filched it from some American police chief — like the ‘broken window’ theory, of which one hears more in Britain than the US these days.
That’s what the ‘democratic deficit’ does: it snuffs out the spirit of liberty. The issue is not how to make the chaps in Brussels more ‘accountable’, but why all that stuff is being dealt with in Brussels in the first place — why so much of the primary-school science can only be entrusted to the laboratory’s men in white coats, like Chris Patten. Eurocrats who spent much of the Eighties mocking President Reagan’s ‘trickle-down economics’ are happy to put their faith in trickle-down nation-building: if you create the institutions of a European state, a European state will somehow take root underneath. . . .
Britain and Europe have ‘free governments’ but they don’t have ‘the spirit of liberty’, and they suffer as a consequence. If you were to apply Tom Ridge’s system of colour-coded security alerts — from blue to red via green, yellow and orange — to the entire planet, you’d wind up with something along these lines: the United States, code green; the Britannic world, code yellow; Europe, code orange; the Middle East, code red. The Arab world has no democracy, and little prospect of any, and so its much-vaunted ‘Arab street’ is, in fact, a symbol of weakness. Folks jump up and down in the street when they’ve nowhere else to go. The Arabs are world leaders at yelling excitedly and shouting ‘Death to the Great Satan!’ and are world losers at everything else.
Western Europe, though, isn’t much healthier. . . . After 215 years, the US Constitution is not only older than the French, German, Italian, Belgian, Spanish and Greek constitutions, it’s older than all of them put together. Whether the forthcoming European constitution will be the one that sticks remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet on it. . . . You would think, would you not, that, if Europe were really serious about avoiding the horrors of the last century, it might try and learn from the two most successful and enduring forms of democracy in the world: the Westminster parliamentary system and American federalism. Instead, these are precisely the forms the EU is most determined to avoid.
WANT TO LIVE A LONG TIME? Then you’ll be interested in this post by Charles Murtaugh.
MORE ON FORESEEABILITY: Reader Justin Adams writes:
There will always be intelligence failures because people often aren’t or don’t act intelligently. That inevitability is most dangerous if you maintain a defensive posture and make yourself a static target. The lesson to be learned — the lesson we seem finally to have learned — is to attack our enemies and put them on the defensive, let them worry about intelligence failures. On the offense, bad intelligence means a missed opportunity to kill an enemy; on defense, it means 3000 dead citizens.
Meanwhile, reader Allen S. Thorpe comments:
This whole hubbub over unnoticed warnings is really old news. I agree with you that they shouldn’t be arguing that they “couldn’t” have foreseen this, but it really doesn’t matter. The only reason this is raising such a ruckus is that the Democrats are flailing around looking for an issue. If we want to start pointing fingers, how about our free press who are always standing up for the public’s right to know. They have names like Sentinel, Guardian, Observer and Herald, but why weren’t they campaigning for Clinton to do something about bin Laden and the other terrorists. Apparently, you need more than six deaths at home, and deaths of servicemen and diplomats don’t count, to get their attention or make them think beyond the last news cycle.
Sure the government let us down, but so did all of our institutions. We let each other down, but not being mad as hell that the first bombing of the WTC was treated as a mere criminal problem. Or that we didn’t get tough after our people were blown up in Beirut, or the Khobar towers, or the two embassies in Africa or in the Cole. I’m just glad that when 9/11 happened somebody started doing the right thing. What I’m worried about is that our indignation will drain away into congressional investigations and peace placards, because if we don’t keep our resolve, we’ll be ripe for more outrages.
UPDATE: A reader notes, regarding accountability: “Bush was not in office in 1999 but CIA director Tenet was. ”
SFSU UPDATE: This story seems to be breaking out into old-line media — it’s mentioned in this Village Voice oped.
HAD A LONG CONVERSATION WITH A JOURNALIST about, among other things, the value of “unique visitor” stats. I have to confess that I’m not that impressed: to me, having a reader who refreshes 10 times a day is pretty much as valuable as having 10 readers who look once a day. It’s a question of width vs. depth of interest. He more or less agreed but said that unique visitors is just one of those measures that people like, even though tech-types say that “unique visitors” is usually an undercount because of firewalls, etc.
I think that many of the comparisons going on (MetaFilter is apparently claiming more viewers than the WSJ) are pretty bogus — not even apples vs. oranges, but one thing that you hope is some kind of fruit with another thing that you hope is some kind of fruit. And I don’t think that even well-established metrics are worth much — note the discrepancy between the NY Times bestseller list and actual book sales. Or look at newspapers: if a million people buy a newspaper, do a million people read every story in it? Probably not.
People measure stuff because it makes them feel better. But the measures are of limited value, especially in the absence of any agreement on what’s important. Until you agree on what measures are important, and what you want to know, the measures are mostly bogus. But I’m working on a site redesign, and I’m going to include a counter that measures (however inaccurately) “unique visitors” so as to finally be able to answer the question that journalists ask.
IS CHOMSKY VETTING JOB APPLICANTS? That’s what Iberian bloggers John & Antonio wonder:
Is it any surprise that MIT Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy Noam Chomsky is a proud signer of the pro-disinvestment petition? No, not really. That’s not exactly “Man Bites Dog.” What is kind of interesting, though, is that out of the 54 MIT faculty members who signed the anti-Israeli, pro-disinvestment petition, a full 13 are from Chomsky’s own department, and a fourteenth is listed only under linguistics. If we look at the 121 MIT faculty members who signed the anti-disinvestment, anti-anti-Israeli petition, a grand total of zero are from Linguistics and Philosophy. Zero. Zip. Nada. Goose egg. Now, could we take these numbers and use them as evidence that the MIT Linguistics and Philosophy Department is politically vetted? We sure think you could. Especially if you note that out of the five signers currently at Israeli institutions, a grand total of four have Ph.D.s from or did a postdoc at MIT’s Ling and Phil Department. If you were a student at MIT’s Ling and Phil department, knowing that your teachers have unanimously signed one petition and have scorned another, might not you be tempted to follow their example? We think that you just might. The MIT Ling and Phil Department sounds like it enjoys all the freedom of thought and expression of East Germany, with the professorate serving as the Stasi.
Harsh, but not unwarranted.
WHY THE EMPIRE IS GOOD, AND THE REPUBLIC BAD: Jonathan Last is gonna get a lot of flame mail for this.
FORESEEABILITY, REVISITED: Okay, I had a long and (well, maybe) erudite post on all this, which Blogger promptly ate. But those who say that such an attack was unforeseeable need to reflect on the fact that it was already foreseen:
WASHINGTON (AP) – Exactly two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal report warned the executive branch that Osama bin Laden’s terrorists might hijack an airliner and dive bomb it into the Pentagon or other government building.”Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency or the White House,” the September 1999 report said.
The report, entitled the “Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?,” described the suicide hijacking as one of several possible retribution attacks al-Qaida might seek for the 1998 U.S. airstrike against bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan.
The report noted that an al-Qaida-linked terrorist first arrested in the Philippines in 1995 and later convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing had suggested such a suicide jetliner mission.
Here’s a link to the report, which even features a big picture of the World Trade Center.
Now I don’t expect that Bush, or Rice, or Rumsfeld, or Ashcroft would have — or should have — read this report. But someone should have, and — knowing that Al Qaeda had actually planned such an attack — might have considered the possibility that a planned hijacking might be more than “traditional” in nature, so that once the word got out that Al Qaeda might be planning a wave of hijackings, this idea might have occurred to someone.
This isn’t the complicity that Cynthia McKinney is bloviating about, but it is an example of a breakdown in thinking about these things. And it’s why — despite TAPPED’s pro-Administration spin — I do think that it’s an insult to our intelligence for Administration officials to keep saying that the 9/11 attacks were simply unimaginable.
To some degree, as several correspondents have pointed out, this is beside the point. The way to respond to terrorism is to put an end to nations sponsoring or harboring terrorists. That’s absolutely right, but it doesn’t excuse silly attempts to avoid responsibility. (Thanks to reader Jim Loan for the link).
UPDATE: Reader Casey Abell thinks I’m too hard on Bush:
Love the blog. But didn’t you notice the date on that report? Last time I checked, in 1999 the “executive branch” consisted of Bill Clinton and Al Gore and other people like that. Bush and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld and Rice weren’t hanging out at the White House.
I realize that the AP is biased and doesn’t want to mention Clinton in their story, though they criticize Bush by name. But there’s no reason for you to follow their lousy example. Pile the abuse on both administrations.
Equal-opportunity abuse. It’s a wonderful thing.
Well, yeah, and I think there’s plenty of evidence that the Clinton Administration didn’t take Al Qaeda seriously enough despite plenty of reason to do so. But I was just arguing that the Administration’s claims that they couldn’t have anticipated that sort of an attack — or non-”traditional” hijackings in general — don’t hold water.
ANOTHER SFSU UPDATE: Reader Eric Mitchell sends a link to this story from 1997, which includes this interesting quote from SFSU President Tom Corrigan:
“San Francisco State is considered the most anti-Semitic campus in the nation,” Corrigan said at his ‘State of the University’ address to the faculty Aug. 25, when he also openly wondered why faculty did not speak out against a controversial speech made by black speaker Khallid Muhammad on campus last spring.
In SF State recent history, racial and ethnic conflict among students has often focused around complicated conflicts involving the Jewish community here and abroad.
In 1994, members of the Pan Afrikan Student Union tried to stop riot police and university officials from removing a Malcolm X mural that depicted dollar signs over an Israeli flag and a burning U.S. flag.
In 1996, Palestinian-heritage students and other students empathetic to their causes protested against a separate Jewish state and physically disrupted students involved in the Israeli Caravan, a traveling celebration of Jewish culture. There was also a peaceful protest during last spring’s Caravan visit that was closely watched by university officials.
Last April, some members of PASU unfurled a banner that depicted an Israeli flag with a swastika in the center of the Star of David. The group was protesting the Israel government’s alleged role in training Peruvian troops who eventually stormed the Japanese ambassador’s home in Lima, ending a 126-day hostage crisis.
Last May, PASU invited black speaker and founder of the New Black Panther Party, Khallid Muhammad, to make a speech entitled, “Who is Pimping the World?” The group’s price of admission was $7 for student and $15 for “Zionist, Uncle Toms and other white supremacist.” In response, a handful of student government leaders expressed concern that members of PASU were spreading words of hate and violence.
Sounds like they’ve had a long-standing problem. So why didn’t they do anything?
SFSU UPDATE: Meryl Yourish, who owns this story, has more information at her site, including a response to someone who claims the story was overplayed — but presents as evidence an article from a newsletter that seems to track the Zoloth email pretty closely, except for a bit of weasel-worded stuff from a University PR guy. She also has SFSU President Tom Corrigan’s email address, and another letter from San Francisco Hillel supporting the original account, and saying that SFSU has been a hostile environment for Jewish students for quite some time, and that SFSU failed to follow its own guidelines on how to handle student misbehavior.
READER FRANK NATOLI says I’ve been too hard on the FBI and the intelligence community:
Has anyone [yet] pointed out that obtaining a piece of intelligence is only step #1? And that separating the “correct” intel from the “incorrect” is not only step #2 but often the tough part?
U.S. military intel knew they had lost track of six Jap carriers in late November 1941, and for days afterward all six maintained scrupulous radio silence. In retrospect, ah-hah, that should have tipped FDR, Kimmel, Short et al that the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Zuikaku and Shokaku were crossing the North Pacific enroute to Hawaii and the “Day of Infamy”. Right?
Wrong. Because, as Gordon Prange makes very clear in “At Dawn We Slept”, there was a relative avalanche of other intel that indicated that Jap objectives were to the south, to the Dutch East Indies and their oil. There was no divine guidance to direct us to ignore the rational intel and focus instead on the irrational.
And so it probably is with the FBI memo on possible WTC attacks. Would Senator Daschle and Representative Gephardt kindly articulate how this one memo was to be separated from the relative infinity of other memos?
Well, maybe. But what offends me — as I keep repeating — isn’t so much the failure to prevent the attacks. That may well have been impossible, even if they’d had extraordinarily good intelligence. What offends me is the constant repetition (I heard Condi Rice say this just yesterday) that no one could have imagined the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That’s not only absurd, it’s an insult to our intelligence.
READER PHILIPPE RAMOFF writes from France, and he’s very offended by my post (below) about the BoycottFrance.Com website. He also sends a link to this story in which Woody Allen compares the filmmakers’ boycott of Cannes to Nazi methods, which he apparently feels bolsters his case. I’m unimpressed. Allen isn’t boycotting Cannes because, frankly, his career is not at a point where he can afford to boycott Cannes. He’s hoping for a comeback. Allen’s odious comparison does him no credit, to put it mildly, nor is Allen generally regarded as a source of moral leadership.
Ramoff also asks: “And, maybe you may explain some day, which collective sin made us, french, mourning for your forgiveness?” Well, there’s a topic the Blogosphere could work on all day. But it’s the consistent practice of siding with terrorists (at least so long as they don’t strike French citizens), the denunciations of American policy, and Americans, as “simplistic,” the tolerance of Islamic extremism, synagogue burning, and antisemitism, the description of Israel as a “shitty little country,” etc., at least for a start, that have people interested in boycotting France. The BoycottFrance.Com site has more information.
As I mentioned in my post, France may actually be coming around. I’m hopeful, but then I’m a well-known optimist.
HASHEMITE RESTORATION UPDATE:
But if Jordan were fully to join the effort to topple Saddam, the prize could be tempting — and could also answer the question of who replaces Saddam. Until his assassination in 1958, the Hashemite King Faisal II was the head of state of Iraq. King Hussein of Jordan, father of the current King Abdullah, was Faisal’s cousin, and the heir to the Iraqi throne, Sharif Ali, lives conveniently in London. The return of a constitutional monarchy to Iraq could be a plausible replacement for Saddam Hussein — and how could the Arab world object to the return of the Hashemite dynasty, direct descendants of the prophet Muhammed?Oh, I’m sure they’ll find something to object to. But this idea has advanced well beyond the blogosphere, where it made its first appearance.
EUGENE VOLOKH asks what people would say if schools had affirmative action for Catholics and Pentecostals in the name of achieving religious diversity.
MICKEY KAUS has more information on how the welfare reform debate is going. Hillary is a centrist in this debate. Uh oh.
And try to ignore the annoying Qwest ad that takes up half your screen.
VIRGINIA POSTREL has an update on the Franklin Society petition, and the anti-cloning bill.
READER MIKE HADLEY sends this link to suggest that things are as bad for black students at Harvard as for Jewish students at SFSU. Read it and see if you agree.
BELLESILES UPDATE: Still more problems with the evidence Bellesiles claims to have relied on:
The documents in question are Vermont court records from the late 18th century. The key passage appears on page 353 of “Arming America”: “During Vermont’s frontier period, from 1760 to 1790, there were five reported murders (excluding those deaths in the American Revolution), and three of those were politically motivated.” The endnote for this finding refers the reader to Superior Court records at the county courthouse in Rutland, Vermont. But as Ohio State University historian Randolph Roth has pointed out (and the court clerk in Rutland has confirmed), the volumes for 1782 to 1790 are not in the Rutland court’s holdings. Furthermore, the Superior Court did not exist before 1778, when Vermont became a state, so it has no records for the period 1760 to 1777.
UPDATE: This isn’t quite right. Vermont became an “independent republic” in 1777, but didn’t become an actual state until later. Thanks to reader Steve White for pointing that out. I should have noticed it myself.
VODKAPUNDIT IS BACK.
“WHAT IS it that makes anti-Americanism, alone among ugly political fanaticisms, respectable?” Bret Stephens looks at the roots of anti-Americanism (and observes, shrewdly, that anti-Americanism is most of what passes for Leftist thought these days). Noam Chomsky is mentioned.
PATRICK NIELSEN HAYDEN says Ken Layne is “slightly unhinged.” Slightly?
BILL QUICK TAKES ON ALL COMERS in a multidirectional debunking of the claim that Bush only recently made up the “war, recession, or emergency” exception to the balanced-budget goal.
The SpinSanity guys invited me to link to their piece, but I replied that I seemed to remember that he had said this during the campaign. Unless I’ve just been brainwashed.
DR. FRANK’S ALIEN WIFE: Sounds like a series on the WB, but it’s for real.
WHY TAP DOESN’T SUCK NOW: I wonder if they’ll have a quote from me on their site soon — “TAP doesn’t suck anymore” — Glenn Reynolds? Well, probably not. But a reader writes with an explanation for the phenomenon I identified below:
There is one reason, and only one reason, for the success of The American Prospect online: Chris Mooney became the editor. It was the approach that he brought to TAP that ushered in the blog and the new non-sleep inducing articles. If I had Bill Moyers’ e-mail address, I’d tell ask him to put Mooney in charge of the whole thing.
PS: The old TAP didn’t completely suck. The political coverage was… bad and the opinion columns were easily ignored, but the criticism – movie, music, book and otherwise – has always been good.
I almost never even looked at TAP until the past few months, and in fact one of the few articles I’d read before then was one by Chris Mooney. So maybe this is true. Pay him more! Er, or at least don’t lay him off. . . .
20/20 HINDSIGHT: Rand Simberg thinks that people — I guess that would include me have been too hard on the FBI, etc.
UPDATE: Actually, on rereading this, I don’t think he really disagrees with what I’ve been saying:
Was this even avoidable? In theory, yes. I wasn’t really surprised when it happened. When the first plane hit, I was wondering if it was deliberate, and if so, how it could be pulled off. I ran through the possibilities in my mind, and the only one that made sense was a hijacking. When the second plane hit, the thought jelled–clearly that was what happened. Was it unthinkable? Not to me. The WTC had already been targeted by these nutballs. We had already seen a plane taken down by a suicidal pilot (in the Egypt Air case). So why not?
But in practice, it probably couldn’t have been prevented, even had the dots been properly connected. We were simply culturally unable to deal with it until we had the bucket of ice water splashed in our collective face last September.
He’s absolutely right about this last. Even if we’d known, what could we have done? Started questioning suspicious Arab-looking young men at airports? Hell, we’re not even doing that now. Get passengers to resist? That would have been a good idea (it was probably always a good idea) but would people have changed their behavior from sheeplike to lionlike without the examples of the WTC and Pentagon on fire — and of Flight 93? Doubtful. Put sky marshals on the planes? Again, we’ve barely started to do that now. Invaded Afghanistan? Who would have gone for that?
HERE’S A LINK to a picture of the blood-libel posters displayed at SFSU. Note that this isn’t anti-Israeli, or anti-Zionist. It’s pure, medieval-style antisemitism, involving children said to be “slaughtered in accordance with Jewish rites.”
What would SFSU have already done by now to any group that displayed similarly offensive posters about black people? Or Muslims?
Don’t misunderstand me — I don’t think that such posters should be censored, nor that this one should. But I think the people who run universities don’t generally share my commitment to free speech. And because they don’t, it’s fair to call them to account when they display an attitude of selective laissez faire.
FUKUYAMA SHOWS HIS COLORS: I’ve been reading Bob Zubrin’s book Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization and here’s a great quote:
In 1997, Scientific American writer James Horgan published a more interesting best-seller entitled The End of Science, in which he held that all the really big discoveries to be made in science already have been made, and thus the enterprise of scientific discovery must soon grind to a halt. (The day after I finished reading Horgan’s book in February 1998, a group of astronomers announced that they had found a fifth fundamental force in nature.) In his book, Horgan interviewed Fukuyama and asked him what he thought of those who doubt we have reached the end of human history. “They must be space travel buffs,” Fukuyama replied in derision. Indeed.
Yes, that’s our Frank.
I’VE NOTICED that I’m linking to a lot of stuff from The American Prospect lately, which I used to almost never do. Why is this? I think it’s because TAP (or at least its online version) doesn’t suck anymore. A lot of people have been saying they should keep the blog if the magazine folds. Why not try to keep the online magazine if the print mag folds? Their “online exclusive” articles, in my experience, are the best ones anyway.
THE DUTCH ELECTIONS won’t make that big a difference, says this article by Sasha Polakow-Suransky , because the EU runs everything anyway.
ED LAZARUS writes on FindLaw that he disagrees with Bush & Ashcroft & Olson on the Second Amendment, but that it was perfectly legitimate for them to change their position and endorse the individual rights view.
WIRELESS BLOGGING: I’m on the laptop in the Student Center, across the street from the Law School. It’s deserted (summer school starts next week), but there’s Starbucks and a comfy chair. The University finally got the wireless network set up so that it would work with Windows XP (don’t ask). I’m delighted to have the mobility.
TURNAROUND in the Nuremburg files case. The 9th Circuit, sitting en banc held that the websites were “true threats” and not protected by the First Amendment. I’d be inclined to rule the other way, but on the facts this is a close case. Eugene Volokh has more on this. He says that it should have gone the other way, too, and says that the threats here weren’t any worse than those permitted by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware. That’s probably true, but this isn’t an easy case. I think it’s likely bound for the Supremes.
UPDATE: Eugene now has a much longer post that makes a pretty persuasive case that Claiborne Hardware should control here.
SFSU UPDATE: Best of the Web has some additional information about goings-on at SFSU. About the quality of the administration’s response it writes:
Political correctness is such an old story as to be a cliché, but perhaps some sort of awakening is under way at SFSU. Will Corrigan be true to his word and deal harshly with his campus’s anti-Semitic thugs? The world is watching.
Indeed it is.
AN ORGY OF GRANDSTANDING AND BLOVIATION: That’s Ron Bailey’s evaluation of yesterday’s Congressional hearings on cloning. Meanwhile this analysis of literary and (of course) Star Wars metaphors in the cloning debate suggests that public discourse has been taken over by the Dark Side. And here Chris Mooney looks at the Star Wars / Lord of the Rings worldview and its roots in Luddism.
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT isn’t flying commercial, for what are described as “security reasons.” And given the (putative) role of Justice in fighting terrorism, and Ashcroft’s own Pim-Fortuyn-like demonization in the press, maybe that makes sense.
On the other hand, I’d prefer if the guys who subject us to all that lousy and pointless security rigamarole at airports had to go through it themselves. Yeah, I know, you may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. . . .
TAPPED leads the charge against political correctness at Berkeley and at the University of South Carolina.
CREATIVE COMMONS seems to be off the ground.
MELANA VICKERS delivers a near-Fisking to supporters of the Army’s “Crusader” vehicle.
EVE KAYDEN writes on unpopular opinions. I’m not surprised at her experience. While political correctness is real, it’s not as prevalent as people might think: it’s just that the extent to which people disagree is masked by preference falsification, which is of course encouraged by self-appointed thought police. That’s breaking down now, partly because the campus left has so thoroughly discredited itself over the past decade, partly because it’s just gotten, well, dull.
THE FEELING OF POWER: Sasha Volokh has a great post. If I weren’t figuring out grades, I’d like it even more.
SFSU UPDATE: Bay Area denizen Richard Bennett has some observations and links.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER GRAY DAVIS SCANDAL. This one involves the California prison guards’ union, about as us unsavory a political influence as you’re likely to find. I believe they’re big supporters of “three strikes” laws, as you might imagine. Read this L.A. Times piece, too: “Shameless Governor Is a Compulsive Money-Grubber.”
SFSU UPDATE: Here’s an editorial in the Washington Times.
BAD NEWS for the Chinese economy, reports Brink Lindsey.
BRENDAN O’NEILL REPORTS that it’s a Fukuyama-fest in Britain. Somehow, I’m not surprised.
READER GEORGE SPENCER says that you can’t fix Rolling Stone because it was never that cool anyway:
By coincidence, a few days I dug out some elderly crumbling copies of RS from the late 1960s and early 1970s. In their own dope-y way (pun intended), they’re just as rubbishy as Maxim. If you’re in the narrow demographic/psychographic audience that RS wants to attract, you think it’s cool. If you’re not in that group, RS is uncool. Advertisers would like our 40-something age group to instead read My Generation magazine, a magazine that publishes 1975 era content for mature adults. It’s published by something called the AARP. A recent issue ran a feature on the late Ken Kesey in which he bragged about dropping acid every Easter and going to church with his mother. Hmmm…maybe I’ll stick with the Wall Street Journal.
What? Next you’ll be saying we should make our own coolness instead of getting it from a magazine!
OUBAI SHAHBANDAR says that Bush should get tough on illegal immigrants.
PUNDITREVIEW is calling it “PhotoGate.” Enough “gates” already.
ROD DREHER says that Holland is being Giulianized. Will the rest of Europe follow?
JOSH MARSHALL says that Cynthia McKinney is still an idiot.
MATTHEW ENGEL receives a gentle yet savage Fisking at the hands of Clay Waters.
UPDATE: The dreaded Blogger Archive Bug strikes. Just go here until he fixes it.
ROLLING STONE RE-COOLIFICATION UPDATE: I didn’t get that many nominees, which is kind of sad. There were a lot of votes for bringing P.J. O’Rourke back (he’s almost respectable writing for The Atlantic, one reader complained), many nominations of Matt Welch and Ken Layne, and quite a few in support of Tim Blair.
I like all these guys, but is that it?
WHAT THE FBI SHOULD HAVE KNOWN: Lots of readers have emailed in response to my earlier post (it’s neck-and-neck with the one on wrenches!), taking both sides. Here are some samples. Reader Phillipe Richard writes:
Another reason it should have occurred to somebody:
The FBI was concerned because Middle Eastern men were training in flight schools. So obviously they were concerned about planes being hijacked? Does it take flight training to hijack a plane? No. You get the pilot to fly where you want to go. That’s a traditional hijacking, as Ari Fleischer puts it. So why would you need pilot training? Because you’re planning to kill the pilot. Why?Because you want the plane to go somewhere no pilot, even with a gun to his head, even when you threaten to blow up the plane, would go. And you don’t need pilot training to crash a plane just anywhere, just a hand. You might need to crash it into a specific target.
The fact that this went all the way up to the President suggests that somebody was awfully worried. I really fail to understand how nobody along the way could have guessed. Especially when someone all the way at the bottom did.
Howard Owens adds:
Glenn, did you ever watch the first episode of “The Lone Gunmen,” the X-Files spinoff.
It will probably never air again.
It was about the Lone Gunmen foiling a plot to hijack a plane and fly it into the WTC. In this episode, it happened at night and the hijackers were using a computer, but it was the first thing I thought of on Sept. 11.
Though personally, I’m willing to cut the FBI a little slack. The mistake was in not having a centralized anti-terrorism squad that could have put the pieces together.
Yeah, there’s something to that. What I find upsetting — and, in a way, insulting, — is the notion that the 9/11 attacks were utterly beyond imagination. Obviously, they weren’t. David Hecht makes the following points:
1. The intelligence business is composed of two major parts: assessing the
adversary’s capabilities, and assessing his intentions. Certainly, it is possible that our intelligence services realized that a hijacker had the capability to fly an airliner into a soft target: as you point out, anyone who had read Tom Clancy’s “Debt of Honor” could not but have been aware of the possibility. The problem comes in assessing intentions: WHY would anyone do such a thing? You will note that, even in the Clancy scenario, the person who does this is a lone actor, and he succeeds _despite the fact that the US is already in a shooting war_! Given that Mr. Clancy’s intel people are undoubtedly smarter and more imaginative than the ones in Real Life, what does this say about the difficulty of determining that this could be a threat?
2. Even within the framework of adversary capabilities, I do not have any doubt but that, on any given day, there are multiple potential threat indications and warnings. This has been rendered far more problematic in a post-Cold War environment where the threat axis can be virtually anywhere, rather than being limited to a few principal sources. It seems likely that, on any given day, the threat estimates emanating from our intel community must rank the threat of a 9/11 type incident as low: especially without
collateral indications and warnings (e.g., that such an effort was part of a decapitating strike complementary to other military action).
3. Let us also not forget that the threats, in this case, came from people who lived and worked in the U.S. (although they were foreign nationals). Given the hypersensitive civil-rights environment that we lived in prior to 9/11, what are the odds of our finding out what was going on and assessing it correctly? The CIA is forbidden by statute from domestic surveillance: the FBI’s counter-terrorism units have been starved for funds that have been used to feed the Drug War instead. The other intel agencies are primarily
concerned with military threats of a more traditional type and might not have recognized indications and warnings pertinent to acts of the 9/11 type even if they had received them.
Kierkegaard famously said that “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” I think we do ourselves an injustice when we condemn intelligence “failures” until all the facts are in.
Hmm. Well, there’s something to this — but I’d feel better about adopting a “wait until all the facts are in” approach if I didn’t have the strong impression that the past few months have been an orgy of bureaucratic ass-covering that will make it hard for the facts to come in. I have no confidence, at this point, that the intelligence system is being given the shakeup it needs to do the job it faces. I’d very much like to be wrong in this, and it’s possible that behind the wall of secrecy everything is being done right. It’s also possible that we have the same “top men” working on this as were featured at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And I’m sorry to say that I know which way to bet.
UPDATE: Reader Marty Busse writes: “There was also the attempt, in December of 1994, by members of the Algerian Armed Islamic group, to crash a jetliner into the Eiffel Tower.” Also, check out the comments section after this post of Charles Johnson’s, particularly the post signed “Enough” about Cynthia McKinney-style conspiracy theorists.