December 28th, 2007

The techniques of terrorism: no holds barred

In my readings about Benazir Bhutto, I came across a telling detail about the first (and failed) attempt to kill her on her return to Pakistan. The bomb involved was a baby:

A man approached her armored truck, Mrs. Bhutto recounted, and was trying to hand across a small child as her motorcade inched through the thronged streets of Karachi. She remembers gesturing for the man to come closer.

“It was about 1 or 2 years old, and I think it was a girl,” Mrs. Bhutto told The Washington Times in her first public remarks about the baby.

“We feel it was a baby, kidnapped, and its clothes were rigged with explosives. He kept trying to hand it to people to hand to me. I’m a mother, I love babies, but the [streetlights] had already gone out, and I was worried about the baby getting dropped or hurt.”

Mrs. Bhutto would have been killed, she said, if she hadn’t stepped back to loosen the shoes on her swollen feet.

This the nature of the enemy. Think about it.

In wartime, babies are certainly killed, it’s true. But that is not the intent of “dumb” bombs (and all bombs are somewhat dumb). It just happens, as collateral damage. And, of course, these are children of the enemy that are killed.

Sacrificing one’s own baby for the cause, in order to get to an enemy by preying on that enemy’s soft heart, is something else. Something extraordinarily sinister, although also very clever.

I have written many times how one of the marks of terrorists is that they use the opposition’s humanity to prey on that opposition and to trap it. This was the case in the first Bhutto assassination attempt, although the second used a different m.o.—that of capitalizing on Bhutto’s instincts towards campaigning in a democratic election, going to rallies and being among crowds where she remained remarkably vulnerable.

As this piece (hat tip: Gerard Vanderleun at American Digest) points out (although not quite in the way I would put it):

The Islamists are the natural winners because, as today’s events proved, they are the baddest motherfuckers between the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean….We’re talking about some stone cold thug killaz, and the smart money has to be on them.

The mark of these terrorists seems to be that they will stop at nothing. Not how numerous they are, nor how many supporters they have, but their ruthlessness.

And their numbers seem to be sufficient to cause a great deal of damage, as we have seen over and again. Rigging babies with explosives? All in a day’s work. Killing many bystanders to get to the one they seek? Not a problem. It makes Lee Harvey Oswald seem like a compassionately surgical killer.

One of the marks of 9/11 that lent it its special horror was this very thing, the willingness to go as far as necessary into what we think of as the unthinkable. For the weak, this is both a tactical advantage and a psychological one.

When I was about nine years old, I read the Philip K. Dick story “Second Variety” (odd reading for a young girl, I know, but that’s the way it was). The work, in case you’re not familiar with it, was later the basis for such disparate cinema entertainments as “Screamers” and “Terminator.”

The story featured an end-of-the-world war with a series of killer robots made to look exactly like people, and designed to prey on the humanity of the good guys. The first robot type (“first variety”) looked like a wounded soldier needing help. The second variety was unknown, and only revealed towards the end of the story (I won’t be a spoiler here). But the third—the one that gave me a special chill—was a small vulnerable child needing help, a boy clutching a teddy bear.

At least in the Dick story, these small children were not real, they were only killer robots cleverly designed to look real. But the principle of using an enemy’s humanity against itself was the same. The challenge we face is now how to fight such an enemy effectively without losing our own humanity, and so far—arguments about waterboarding and the like notwithstanding—I have no doubt we have erred, if anything, on the side of caution.

It is no use pretending, however, as I believe Bhutto did, that campaigning and democracy can work in Pakistan the way it does here. Whether it can work at all remains to be seen. Even as a neocon, I don’t pretend that’s easy.

66 Responses to “The techniques of terrorism: no holds barred”

  1. Vanderleun Says:

    “At least in the Dick story, these small children were not real,”

    Hey, you use the technology that you’ve got.

  2. Vince P Says:

    God help us if the Democrats get power next year…. to thought that they would be our defense against the literal baby killers sends me into a depression.

  3. Mitsu Says:

    Oh, I agree these guys are ruthless, but I don’t agree this gives them the long-term advantage. I think there are manhy reasons to think this will eventually be their downfall, as it already has been in Iraq so far. They turned Iraqis against them and they will turn others against them as well.

  4. nyomythus Says:

    eventually be their downfall … we’ve seen or read about it before in Algeria, there reached a point with civil society threw off the French and then the Islamist. We are seeing it in Iraq, presently.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    How is this working out with turning the Lebanese against Hizbollah?

  6. Ymarsakar Says:

    Oh, I agree these guys are ruthless, but I don’t agree this gives them the long-term advantage.

    Western civ weakness and the need to suicide gives them plenty of long term advantages as is. They don’t need anymore to do the job.

  7. nyomythus Says:

    Presently, they’re pretty much on their own, except for, I think there’s still a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. I think Hezbollah is awaiting orders from Damascus/Tehran.

  8. Mitsu Says:

    >How is this working out with turning the Lebanese against Hizbollah?

    Did you happen to notice the huge outrage in Lebanon that came after Syria, a strong ally of Hezbollah, assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, followed by the election of an anti-Syrian government and the ejection of Syrian troops from Lebanon? “Ruthless” tactics eventually cause a backlash. Sure, Hezbollah has support within the Shiite population of Southern Lebanon, but there’s no question that the “ruthless” tactics of their Syrian supporters backfired big time on both Syria and Hezbollah, indirectly.

    It’s true that Hezbollah remains popular among Shiites in Lebanon — but while they have carried out suicide bombings, etc., they have, so far, been reasonably restrained in terms of how they treat their own people, Lebanese Shiites — however, that is beginning to change and, predictably, the more they start to try to strongarm their own people, the more resistance they will meet with. There has already been a backlash against Hezbollah tactics in Lebanon and it could increase if they continue in that direction. They’ve been popular simply because they have, in the past, directed their attention against Israel and the United States — but the more they start to emulate the path of other extremist groups and start to oppress Shiites themselves, the more it will contribute to their own downfall.

  9. anonymous Says:

    I understand the notion that we are undone by their nature. The beastiality of using a child, any child, in order to murder anyone. The idea of strapping on a bomb to kill anyone. The willingness to brutalize, rape, and murder civilians in a “war”. The willingness to use torture, real torture not a vilified sitzbath, not only on the enemy but also on one’s own people. And the willingness and wish to indiscriminately kill as many people as is physically possible because, for some reason, some people do not believe in an evil cult which wishes to kill anyone not in it. Yet, I would advise caution regarding despair.

    Never bet on the heartless monster when it faces fully functional, moral, trained, and equipped man and more, free men, and the warrior born among them. Never. The Spartans showed the way, first with a few hundred, then a few dozen thousand. We are more. As well, we have more high quality “equipment” in mothballs than they will ever have on or off the field. Our nation is secure, if we can keep the politicians out of some of it (and away from simple firearms). The best of what we have in uniform makes WMDs seem, well, quaint. Think brilliant WMD, one as small as a man who can disappear, one which can take a singular target from a crowd or hidden or a target needing the largest nuke, and as accurate and precise as a sniper at 50 yards. Every one would sacrifice their life, most will simply never need to do so.

    I suppose, even knowing, I worry. Not about intent, capacity, will, or what is faced… more about our politicians and media, the many traitors in those ranks, the harm they have and continue to do. Ptuhhha Call me crazy, it is what I see.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Did you happen to notice the huge outrage in Lebanon that came after Syria, a strong ally of Hezbollah, assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, followed by the election of an anti-Syrian government and the ejection of Syrian troops from Lebanon? “Ruthless” tactics eventually cause a backlash.

    The only backlash I’ve seen is Hizbollah almost toppling the Lebanese government.

    If that’s backlash, then I suppose Hizbollah feels they want more of it.

    Whatever tribe or family is in control of Lebanese politics is probably trying to fight back, but the blowback you speak of doesn’t seem to be hurting Hizbollah much.

    The withdrawal of Syrian forces, if you recall, was only because of fear of American military force being used. Not due to Lebanese political backlash. Lebanon can’t even eject Hizbollah, how are they going to eject Syria’s army with Hizbollah as support? They didn’t. The implied threat of American intervention was all that was necessary. Perception creates reality. It’s a facet of human nature you don’t give its just due, Mitsu.

    however, that is beginning to change and, predictably, the more they start to try to strongarm their own people, the more resistance they will meet with.

    The Palestinians have proven that you can go for decades strong arming your own people if you have an external enemy to fight against. Which given Israel’s invasion of south Lebanon, already provides a convenient target around to fuel a Forever War.

    but the more they start to emulate the path of other extremist groups and start to oppress Shiites themselves, the more it will contribute to their own downfall.

    You act like this is inevitable ideologically. You also act like the Sunnis could have taken on Al Qaeda by themselves. If they could have done that, they wouldn’t have asked for American help.

    And Lebanon is not going to get any useful help from Israel or the UN. So those cards were never really on the table.

    In reply to anon, as we see with Virginia Tech, shootings in malls and other places, America will need a far stronger civilian defense than is allowed under posse commitatus if we are to eliminate domestic and foreign terrorists operating inside the US.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    Correction, a stronger civilian defense than the military could provide under Posse Commitatus is needed.

    More here.

    Link

  12. Gray Says:

    Mitsu, either intentionally or naively, misses the point:

    think there are many reasons to think this will eventually be their downfall, as it already has been in Iraq so far. They turned Iraqis against them and they will turn others against them as well.

    It won’t be their downfall if we don’t ‘turn against them’ instead of running away like Somalia or after the USS Cole.

    It won’t be their downfall if the sufficiently terrorized population falls in line like Spain after the bombings or the US left after 9/11.

    It won’t be their downfall unless we ‘turn against them’ by calling it what it is: Islamic Terrorism. (Britain has just recently banned that term in government–showing that the bombing there were effective)

    It won’t be their downfall unless we can publish cartoons of Mohammed.

    Installing footbaths in public places for Wusu is encouraging them, not ‘turning away from them’.

    It won’t be their downfall if ‘turning against them’ is called ‘Islamophobia’.

    It won’t be their downfall if ‘turning against them’ doesn’t mean hunting them down and killing them instead of arresting them and giving them a good lawyer.

  13. rickl Says:

    I remember saying right after 9/11 that we will have to be utterly ruthless and coldblooded in order to defeat this enemy.

    We’re nowhere near that point yet. But we will get there.

  14. rickl Says:

    I don’t know what happened there. The phrase I was trying to quote disappeared, and my whole comment became the quote. There’s no preview, so I had to go ahead with what I thought was right.

    Here’s what I was trying to quote in my last comment:

    “The mark of these terrorists seems to be that they will stop at nothing. Not how numerous they are, nor how many supporters they have, but their ruthlessness.”

  15. Tim P Says:

    One of the marks of 9/11 that lent it its special horror was this very thing, the willingness to go as far as necessary into what we think of as the unthinkable. For the weak, this is both a tactical advantage and a psychological one.

    A good post, as usual, However, what is worrisome in this post is not the terrorist’s ruthlessness, that is a given. But in the fact that many seem to think that the ruthlessness of Islamist terrorism is a new development and the tepid reaction of many to it.

    A cursory study of history will show that they are simply the latest practitioners of utter ruthlessness. I suggest that you read about the Russian Front during the second world war for a tutorial on ruthlessness, by both sides. Reflect on the words ‘scorched earth.’

    Later in Afghanistan, look at the Russian’s use of children’s toys as explosive booby traps which killed and maimed, mainly children. The tactics of collective reprisal have been and are practiced today. Oh, and let’s not forget about ‘ethnic cleansing’ as practiced by the Serbs, Croats and Bosnians.

    Going back further, let’s not forget the anarchist bombings of the early 20th century which eventually led to the Palmer raids. Also look at the Mongols use of terror as a psychological weapon well before psychology existed. I could go on and fill pages with examples from history, but you get the point.

    My point is that a society that recoils in horror, but cannot gather the resolve to decisively defeat such inhuman evil is in serious danger. The fact that sizable portions of the populace actually think that we are the bad guys bodes ill for our republic.

    To quote John Adams, “There has never been a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
    I sincerely hope he was wrong, but looking at the scene today, I have to wonder.

  16. Mitsu Says:

    What I am saying is quite simple: ruthlessness is not in fact a winning tactic, which is what Neo’s post seems to imply, as though we were somehow hamstrung by the fact that we’re not as ruthless as our enemy. That’s simply not the case historically, and it’s not even the case right now in the war on terror.

    What I am arguing against is the notion that we are somehow weaker because we’re not as ruthless as they are. No: we are stronger. Of course, you have to be creative, fierce, determined, etc.: for example, the American revolutionaries used guerrila warfare against the by the book British soldiers. But there is a clear bright line we should not cross while fighting a ruthless enemy, and that’s not because we are just trying to be the good guys, it’s also because being ruthless is not a winning strategy.

  17. TIm P Says:

    Mitsu,

    I have to agree with your last post and that the success of the Iraqi participation in the surge is proof that winning does not involve ruthless gratuitous cruelty against the populace that you wish to subdue. (Not that we are trying to subdue the populace, only the terrorists.) Ruthlessness will only loose the battle in the long run.

    For my part, I am not advocating equal ruthlessness. What I am saying is that we (meaning the polity) are fighting against ourselves more than we are fighting against our common enemy. Additionally, we seem to have sunken into a swamp of moral equivalence in which any action can be equally condemned or justified depending on which narrative that you wish to further. A large percentage of the citizenry, informed only by the MSM are actually uninformed and mis-led by an overly partisan political class and equally partisan media class.

    It is high time that those who would deign to lead us act with the interests of the state first and set their partisanship aside. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening and have no hope of it happening in 2008. I just hope like hell that it doesn’t take a major tragedy to cause that change.

  18. Synova Says:

    It’s not more ruthlessness that we need, but resolve.

    A clarity of mind and united effort.

    Oh, we’ll probably win, most certainly we will, because the enemy seems intent on this barbarous behavior. Terrorists kill more Muslims than any other group. More men, more women, and more children and babies.

    A lack of resolve simply means it will take more of that before it ends.

  19. Sergey Says:

    There is a world of difference between traditional historical barbarity and Satanic evil – of Nazi or Al-Qaeda variety. Even the most benighted society eventually rejects Satanists when sees their deeds. That occured not only in Algeria or Iraq, but in Chechnya too.

  20. Ymarsakar Says:

    ruthlessness is not in fact a winning tactic

    Ruthlessness was never a tactic at all. You keep getting your tactics mixed up with the strategy and vice a versa.

    Ruthlessness is only ever a measure of what one is willing to do to attempt to accomplish one’s goals, strategic goals in this instance.

    Most acts of ruthlessness are strategic in nature, not tactical, because the tactical situation does not mandate that you conduct assassinations in that particular style. Assassination of a target only requires the death of the target, it does not require the strategic use of ruthlessness or other actions to further an “object lesson”.

    The hierarchy always goes, as it should, with tactics under strategy and strategy under logistics.

    as though we were somehow hamstrung by the fact that we’re not as ruthless as our enemy.

    And you are of the belief that we are not hamstrung. Because obviously victory for you is always predestined, is that not true?

    That’s simply not the case historically

    Given that your history consists of using Bosnia to second guess the invasion of Iraq, I’m not really sure why your case with history should matter to me or any other here.

    We’re not operating on the same socio-political-economic hierarchy here. So there is no point in you talking about what historical case there is or is not in your view.

    No: we are stronger.

    We are not stronger just because our enemies are too weak to conduct Mongolian strategic victories with ruthlessness, Mitsu. The strength of any side is not improved by weakening other people. That road is owned by the zero sum game of the Left. It has no relevance to wars as conducted by Americans. Conducted by Europeans and Jews, perhaps, but not Americans.

    The idea that America is stronger because her enemies have problems, mirrors how Palestine is stronger because Palestine can blame all her problems on Israel. Israel has made mistakes, thus this makes us, the Palestinians, deserving… I don’t think so.

    But there is a clear bright line we should not cross while fighting a ruthless enemy

    Individuals never get to decide by what rules they can fight under. The people that decide are the players on each side. The infantry does not get to choose by what ROE they want to operate under, and neither can you, Mitsu.

    it’s also because being ruthless is not a winning strategy.

    You already assumed that to be true pretty early on. Why are you using what you assume to be true to justify another claim that you also happen to assume to be true? It just makes your logic goes into circular logic loop mode.

    This is regardless of how you use strategy and tactics interchangeably, when you offer no indication that you see any distinction between the two.

    that winning does not involve ruthless gratuitous cruelty against the populace that you wish to subdue-Tim P

    Gratuitous cruelty is called terrorism. It has nothing to do with ruthlessness when it is in the pursuit of a goal. To a terrorist, terrorism is the goal in the end. Achieve that goal and you achieve paradise. Few if any terrorists actually have any longer range strategic objective they wish to accomplish.

    There’s a basic ethical difference between launching pre-emptive strikes against America’s enemies and waiting for America’s enemies to launch a pre-emptive strike at us. There is also a basic ethical difference between having no compassion or pity for enemies of humanity, and terrorists having no compassion or pity for members of humanity.

    For my part, I am not advocating equal ruthlessness.-Tim P

    Both you and Mitsu are under the erroneous assumption that ruthlessness is some kind of tactic or strategic objective. It really isn’t. It is a quality of a human being or part of one’s national character. As such, it would most accurately be labeled a logistical asset for us. And a logistical liability for others. For example, Europe demonstrated in the Treaty of Versailles what they did with the human quality of ruthlessness. America demonstrated it in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for diametrically opposite results and reasons.

    You can’t advocate “equal ruthlessness” because ruthlessness is not a static tactical guideline that is happens to be present somewhere. You either have it or you don’t. There is no such thing as equal ruthlessness, even though there are more effective applications of that trait than others.

    Additionally, we seem to have sunken into a swamp of moral equivalence in which any action can be equally condemned or justified depending on which narrative that you wish to further.

    And the narrative here is that ruthlessness is both a tactic and a strategy that causes blowback. Not sure why that should be true, but that’s what people claim.

  21. Vince P Says:

    I want to go back to Tim’s comment.

    Something I want to add to his statment about the enemy’s ruthlessness not being anything new.

    Yes, I agree.. we in the US seem to have the historical memory of gnat coupled with a naivite that will be deadly.

    Take for instance the times when “torture” gets in the news and reporters will ask a question like “If we torture the terrorists, doesn’t that make it more likely the terrorists will torture our people if they have them in custody”

    implying somehow that the terrorists would otherwise not be using torture… it’s our fault they do.

    this tells me the reporter has absoltuely no conception on the ruthlessness of the enemy. he’s under the impression our enemy makes the same moral calculation we do.

    I dont think we ourselves have to be ruthless on the whole, though i’m sure we will have to be in cerain circumstances.. and when we are, we should not have to be subjected to the hand-wringings of gutless leftists.

    plus we need more peopel who are familiar with how ruthless people act and plan.. so that we can forumulate proper responses to defend against them and defeat them.

    Leftists sure aren’t offering us anything toward that end.. to the contrary they’re trying to utopiacize us to death.

  22. Tim P Says:

    Both you and Mitsu are under the erroneous assumption that ruthlessness is some kind of tactic or strategic objective.

    I have to disagree. Terror can be a tactic. You look at the individual terrorist and say that,“to a terrorist, terrorism is the goal in the end. Achieve that goal and you achieve paradise.”

    Those who are committing the acts are not those who planned, financed, prepared or will exploit the acts. Terrorist acts of mass killing are a tactic being employed to achieve a very specific strategic objective.

    Look at Iraq. Terrorist acts are not undertaken to achieve any military objective. The battle is for public opinion and morale. Why? In the case of Iraq, so that the American public (with the help of an accommodating media and leftist 5th column) will become discouraged and pressure our politicians into a quick withdrawal, leaving the field to them. That for them is a victory. Terrorism is a tactic employed to help achieve that strategic goal.

    Why else? To keep the local population in a state of fear and paralysis so that they do not offer to help the other side, either by informing on the terrorists or by helping coalition forces rebuild. There are numerous examples of this.

    That the type of ruthless terrorism employed by the Islamists is a stupid and short sighted tactic of the weak and cowardly is in no doubt. That it is almost always unsuccessful is also in no doubt. Additionally, those who commit such barbarous acts are vicious, evil cowards, no doubt. To some degree they are committing these acts as ends in and of themselves on some personal level, but don’t confuse their personal motivations with the larger picture. They are simpy pawns. There are many who sympathize with the Islamist’s objectives, but who do not go out and blow themselves up in a crowd.

    Once the population refuses to be cowed and begins to actively oppose the terrorists, they can no longer operate nearly as effectively. We have seen that in Iraq.

    Another textbook example of the failure of ruthless terror is the Nazi campaign in Russia. When the Germans initially invaded, they were hailed as heroes and cheered. But their barbarous actions against a civilian population soon caused partisan units to rise up in their rear. Eventually it became so bad that it affected supplying of the front line troops and the Germans were forced to use 25% of their forces in the rear against the partisans. Their ruthlessness against populations in the rear areas only made more enemies and was self-defeating.

    Since the end of the second world war, conflicts have increasingly hinged upon swaying public opinion. Every form of propaganda is used. Ruthlessness is simply another tool in that arsenal. That western society has degenerated to such a level that some see moral equivalence between us and terrorists is a sad sign of decay, but also the subject for another discussion.

    Now let’s look at terrorism in the context of Neo’s post regarding Pakistan and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The tactic was to kill her by whatever means. This was done with ruthlessness as our host here alluded to. Why? As an end in and of itself? Perhaps to the saps who actually did it, but certainly not to those who sent them (and if you notice, rarely go themselves).

    The goal was the de-stabilization of the government. Why? So that the groups employing the terrorism might gain in the ensuing chaos. Will it work? We shall see won’t we?

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    I have to disagree. Terror can be a tactic.

    But since terror isn’t ruthlessness, what does that matter here?

    That it is almost always unsuccessful is also in no doubt.

    I don’t tend to look at wars to knife as always never being in doubt. They are always in doubt as to who will prevail or not, otherwise it turns the entire field of warfare on its head from human self-fullfilling prophecy to predestination.

    This was done with ruthlessness as our host here alluded to.

    A lot of things can be done without compassion or mercy. In this case, the terrorists purposefully set compassion and emotion as part of their objective. They don’t have any qualms about taking advantage of a situation or a weakness, yes, but many people are like that independent of what tactics they prefer in politics or war.

  24. Occam's Beard Says:

    What I am saying is quite simple: ruthlessness is not in fact a winning tactic, which is what Neo’s post seems to imply, as though we were somehow hamstrung by the fact that we’re not as ruthless as our enemy. That’s simply not the case historically, and it’s not even the case right now in the war on terror.

    Worked pretty well for the

    Roman Empire
    Vikings/Normans
    Mongol Empire
    Islamic Caliphate (including the original spread of Islam)
    Spanish Empire
    British Empire (Google Sepoy Mutiny)
    American expansion across the continent
    Zionists (Google King David Hotel)
    North Vietnamese

    to name a few off the top of my head. Don’t be misled by selection bias because some ruthless outfits have recently been defeated. Historically, ruthlessness has benn the hallmark and the sine qua non of the winners.

  25. Tim P Says:

    Ymarsakar,

    You say,

    But since terror isn’t ruthlessness, what does that matter here?

    What are you saying?
    Ruthlessness is necessary for terrorism. Ever heard of a humane terrorist?

    You go on to say,

    A lot of things can be done without compassion or mercy. In this case, the terrorists purposefully set compassion and emotion as part of their objective.

    The terrorists didn’t “set compassion and emotion as part of their objective.” The terrorists used compassion and emotion to help achieve their objective. That my friend exemplifies their ruthlessness.

    Basically, I think that we are largely in agreement and are simply quibbling over semantics.

    As Neo said, “The mark of these terrorists seems to be that they will stop at nothing. Not how numerous they are, nor how many supporters they have, but their ruthlessness.”

  26. Tim P Says:

    Oops, let me correct my fat-fingering…

    You go on to say,

    A lot of things can be done without compassion or mercy. In this case, the terrorists purposefully set compassion and emotion as part of their objective.

    The terrorists didn’t “set compassion and emotion as part of their objective.” The terrorists used compassion and emotion to help achieve their objective. That my friend exemplifies their ruthlessness.

    Basically, I think that we are largely in agreement and are simply quibbling over semantics.

    As Neo said, “The mark of these terrorists seems to be that they will stop at nothing. Not how numerous they are, nor how many supporters they have, but their ruthlessness.”

  27. Mitsu Says:

    Occam,

    It’s a reasonable objection, but I don’t think many of your examples really qualify. The Zionists, for example, gave warning before the King David bombing; the Romans were in a different era, but for the time they were rather disciplined, and after conquering, they would let the conquered peoples keep their local religions, and even some of their local leadership. The example of the American expansion does qualify, in many ways, but it was against a militarily weak opponent (i.e. literally from a different era in terms of technological development)… had native Americans had more military capability our ruthlessness against them would surely have backfired against us.

  28. Gray Says:

    had native Americans had more military capability our ruthlessness against them would surely have backfired against us.

    That is without a doubt the stupidest thing I have ever read on the intertubes.

    “If my aunt had testicles she would be my uncle.”

    I cannot believe we are actually arguing whether ruthlessness is a desirable trait in terrorizing and controlling a civilian population….

    Hey, 9/11 got the American Left to fall in line with the Islamic goals:

    Install footbaths, no funny pictures of Mohammed, no jokes about Islam, no movies where Muslims are terrorists, protesting the Iraq war, a presidential candidate educated in a madrassa, intellectual aid and comfort in the opinion pages, support for a Palestinian State, reflexive anti-semitism….

    I’d say ruthlessness worked just fine.

  29. Mitsu Says:

    So, Gray, you’re in favor of American soldiers purposefully blowing up children to attain our aims?

  30. Occam's Beard Says:

    How about the North Vietnamese? They’re recent, and no day at the beach, by anyone’s standards, which in no small measure is why they won.

    The point is ruthlessness (or the perception of ruthlessness) works. Many people (the entire continent of Europe and the American left) are easily intimidated into cooperation (and by some perverse psychological quirk – neo step in here – into active support) by a show of ruthlessness.

  31. Occam's Beard Says:

    And as for the Romans, crucifying 6000 rebellious slaves along the Appian Way qualifies as ruthless in my book. Nothing like a few thousand crucifixions to make one’s point that one does not like certain behavior.

    Also check the story of Vercingetorix. Encircled, he pushed the Gauls’ women and children out into no man’s land to force Caesar and the Romans (who were themselves encircled) to feed them.

    The Romans pushed them back, whereupon both sides watched the women and children starve to death.

    Tough guys.

  32. Gray Says:

    So, Gray, you’re in favor of American soldiers purposefully blowing up children to attain our aims?

    According to your previous posts, that’s what our “trigger happy” (your words) troops already do.

    We’ve ruthlessly built hundreds of playgrounds and passed out school supplies after we ruthlessly destroyed the Iraqi Army (twice).

  33. Mitsu Says:

    Gray,

    I said no such thing. The whole point is we gain a strategic advantage by the fact that, on the whole, we have behaved far better than our enemies. Despite aberrations, we have, and our track record has been far better than our enemies. As for the incident in Fallouja, I was making the point that if we had had more troops, our boys would be less on edge and incidents such as firing at unarmed protesters would have been less likely.

    Occam,

    Sure, the Romans were ruthless, but it was a different era. And they knew they had to balance this with relatively relaxed governance once they prevailed. One can aslo argue that they were eventually destroyed by foreign blowback… it just took quite a while, since their enemies were initially, like native Americans, far less advanced. But your point is well taken and the example of the Romans does provide a case that must be reckoned with.

    As for the North Vietnamese… it’s not over yet. Their state I suspect will eventually internally have to reform the way the Soviets did. Ruthless tactics certainly work in the short term… I’m saying they eventually lose, especially if they lead to overreach.

  34. Gray Says:

    Gray: “According to your previous posts, that’s what our “trigger happy” (your words) troops already do (shoot children and innocent people)”

    Mitsu: “I said no such thing.”

    Mitsu Previously: “I believe if we had had a more troops, ironically, they may have felt less trigger happy and threatened, and incidents like that may have been averted.”

    “Our trigger happy boys….”

    I don’t know if he supports the frightened, infantile, trigger-happy troops, but he does condescend to them….

    Y’know, we’ve lost a lot of guys over there following the restrictive rules of engagement. The story about ‘shooting protesters’ is total bullshit.

    Al Qaeda in Iraq, as well as the American Left, thank you for carrying their water in the information war….

  35. Mitsu Says:

    Gray, you’re really misreading what I am saying. Unless you’re claiming that American soldiers never, ever make mistakes shooting civilians, my point is simply that our troops, quite understandably, were under a lot of pressure, and spread thin, were more likely to fire mistakenly than they would, in my opinion, had we had more boots on the ground. I am not saying that American soldiers were in the habit of intentionally shooting people for no reason.

    The Fallujah incident was reported on widely at the time. For example:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20030430/ai_n12687939

    It appears the most likely explanation for the incident is our boys were spooked by the sounds of nearby celebratory gunfire (unrelated to the protest) and fired into the crowd of civilian demonstrators.

    In any event, the point is that in war, soldiers make mistakes. I certainly don’t think the vast majority of American soldiers are intentionally trying to harm unarmed civilians, just as the Abu Ghraib incident, I fully believe, was not representative of the conduct of our armed forces as a whole. But mistakes happen, and sometimes good soldiers make bad calls, and there are some bad soldiers in the mix as well, sometimes poorly supervised or even encouraged by superiors to do the wrong thing (as at Abu Ghraib).

    I am arguing that as a whole we will be better off being as forceful and clever and fierce as we can be, without crossing the line into needless violence or ruthlessness at the level Neo is discussing in this post.

  36. Ymarsakar Says:

    my point is simply that our troops, quite understandably, were under a lot of pressure, and spread thin, were more likely to fire mistakenly than they would, in my opinion, had we had more boots on the ground

    Gray doesn’t agree with your idea that if a unit becomes a mob, that suddenly the individuals in it will react better to combat stress.

    More units would actually add more chaos to combat, given the fact that each unit will not know each other very well and bad things tend to happen when you try to complicate things in war.

    It appears the most likely explanation for the incident is our boys were spooked by the sounds of nearby celebratory gunfire (unrelated to the protest) and fired into the crowd of civilian demonstrators.

    Replacing this problem with friendly fire incidents will not make you popular, Mitsu, nor all that useful.

    If you are willing to entertain the line about US troops being spooked by “celebratory gunfire”, thus firing into the crowd on some sort of “death blossom ala Haditha, Marine Force Recon, Blackwater, etc” what else are you willing to entertain?

    And how do you think adding in more warriors to the pot will suddenly calm folks down? Is an individual more sheepish and calmer when the sheep herd gets bigger?

  37. Ymarsakar Says:

    The terrorists didn’t “set compassion and emotion as part of their objective.” The terrorists used compassion and emotion to help achieve their objective. That my friend exemplifies their ruthlessness.

    That’s not the subject I’m concerned with.

    Ruthless people, in referal to a quality people have rather than a specific tactic or strategy people like to confuse with a human quality, can be cruel people or people who just do what needs doing.

    I agree that terrorist actions of this sort is an example of ruthlessness, but ruthlessness is not particularly limited to just using the compassion and emotion of others. It includes the entire panoply of human emotions and weaknesses, whether the exploitation of such frailties or the bypassing of such weaknesses by one’s own side.

    Such is necessary to truly determine whether you and Mitsu are correct about ruthlessness or whether we have a better grasp on the human dynamics of the situation.

    You can’t just assume such things to be true without challenge. Meaning what you and Mitsu said about ruthlessness.

    What are you saying?
    Ruthlessness is necessary for terrorism. Ever heard of a humane terrorist?

    Since you’re getting off topic, allow me to get us back to what we were discussing.

    I said,

    “Both you and Mitsu are under the erroneous assumption that ruthlessness is some kind of tactic or strategic objective.”

    You said “I have to disagree. Terror can be a tactic.”

    I said “But since terror isn’t ruthlessness, what does that matter here?”

    You said “Ruthlessness is necessary for terrorism. Ever heard of a humane terrorist?”

    So to get back to the point you might have forgotten, Tim, ruthlessness is still not accepted as a tactic by me, regardless of how you try to connect terrorism with ruthless components.

    Since terrorism isn’t ruthlessness, it doesn’t matter if terrorism is a tactic. It doesn’t make ruthlessness into a tactic as well, which if you recall, was my original claim.

    This isn’t about semantics, this is about metaphysics and the accurate description of human nature. And why that matters, is introduced by Occam here.

    to name a few off the top of my head. Don’t be misled by selection bias because some ruthless outfits have recently been defeated.

    Regardless of what people want or wish, they still need an actual power base. Since it is hard for incompetent folks to acquire more power, whether they be good or evil, the problem with terrorists is that ruthlessness is not enough. Power must also be part of the equation, and in this aspect, Ghenghis Khan and Temujin certainly provided an example of guerrilla warfare, hit and run tactics, and the power that can derive from such in combination with ruthlessness.

    It is very easy for a king to lose power whether he is ruthless or not, so long as he is incompetent to boot. Ruthlessness, like any other human quality, is no guarantee of victory or success or defeat. It is simply a tool and an edge, like violence, that anyone can use well or poorly. Although usually being ruthless has some connotations of also being effective, decisive, and impactful. Feckless, would of course, be a better descriptor for people attempting to be ruthless but only ending up having their schemes blow up in their faces.

    Historically, ruthlessness has benn the hallmark and the sine qua non of the winners.

    it is pretty easy to be spiteful, dumb, and cruel when you are an incompetent but bloodthirsty person. It is very hard, though, for those who want peace and security for their people to be able to accomplish all this without being ruthless, however.

    So it is easy to imagine how competent people tend to often have a component of ruthlessness to their character traits and policies. That is not the same as what Mitsu believes, of course, which is that ruthlessness is a predestined mark of failure in survival or success.

    Nothing is predestined, certainly not human success or failure.

    So, Gray, you’re in favor of American soldiers purposefully blowing up children to attain our aims?-Mitsu

    To make myself really clear for those that might still have questions about my position, Mitsu’s line here clears it up pretty well. This is his response to Gray’s remark about having ruthlessness. Because Mitsu sees ruthlessness as a tactic cum strategy, Mitsu automatically assumes that being ruthless must mean being a terrorist.

    That is a rather inaccurate read of human nature. You can’t fight a war well based upon the wrong assumptions, thus I have a vested interest in challenging these erroneous assumptions.

  38. Occam's Beard Says:

    I believe Nicolo Machiavelli said it best (I paraphrase, obviously) in The Prince that people will screw people they love before they’ll screw people they fear.

    Point taken.

  39. Sally Says:

    I actually agree (somewhat to my surprise) with Mitsu here, in part. But there is a lot of confusion over terminology, which could do with clearing up first:

    - First, “ruthlessness”, which is a character trait, should be distinguished from “terrorism”, which is a tactic, as Ymar has rightly pointed out. Not all ruthless people are terrorists, but all terrorists, pretty much by definition, must be ruthless.

    - Second, ruthlessness, even as a pure character trait, should be distinguished from mere viciousness, wanton cruelty, or, a more difficult category, basic evil. Ruthlessness is defined simply as “having no pity”, and it can make sense to think of it in terms of degrees — so that, while some degree of ruthlessness may be necessary in some circumstances, utter ruthlessness becomes pretty indistinguishable from basic evil (of the kind that uses babies to deliver bombs, for example).

    Which brings me to why I agree in part with Mitsu here (though I think he made a bad choice of words in referring to “trigger-happy troops”, and I think he should just admit that). Our political and moral sense — including themes of law, justice, fairness, compassion, etc. — has been undergoing a long historical/cultural development that has enhanced, not reduced the strength and robustness of our societies. (And it’s our very example of that strength, by the way, that has driven the islamists to such deranged lengths in their hopes to terrorize us into a frightened pacifism and retreat, and their own populations into submission.) So, yes, I’d agree that, other things being equal, justice, compassion, mercy, etc., are important and strong long-term survival traits that will win out over time against injustice, mercilessness, and mere ruthlessness.

    But — and this is where my partial agreement ends — in some circumstances you just don’t have that time, and the short term may require a degree of ruthlessness just in order to allow the “long-term” to come into play at all. Furthermore, I’d want to stress just how contingent and uncertain this “long-term” business is in the first place — abstractions by themselves do nothing, and it’s certainly possible, over quite a long “short-term”, to oppress entire populations through the use of sufficiently ruthless and ingenious terror. It’s only through the constant willingness of brave people to confront and combat that terror, acting with no guarantee of success, that tyranny is ever defeated.

  40. Occam's Beard Says:

    Good analysis, Sally.

    Reading your post made me realize also that pity, mercy, and compassion depend upon the ability not to exercise them, if one chooses.

    If one is perfectly prepared and able to show no pity, should the circumstances warrant it, but does, then one evinces a virtue.

    In contradistinction, one who exhibits mercy obligately in all circumstances is merely weak, either physically or morally, for not exercising judgment.

    So, at least in my view (correct me if I’m wrong), the virtue lies in exercising sound judgment in when to extend compassion. and when not.

  41. Ymarsakar Says:

    Mercy is only for the strong. The weak have no business being merciful to anyone even weaker than they, and for those stronger than they, that option is not ever on the table to begin with.

    This goes back to the Meta-Golden Rule. Treat your inferiors as you expect your superiors to treat you.

    Loyalty going both ways is also part of it.

    Applied directly, you have a responsibility for the consequences of saving a life, for if you did nothing only the death of a person would be on your conscience whereas if you saved a life, then everything that happens to that person in his extended life is part of the consequences of your actions.

    If you are not strong enough to accept the consequences of your actions, all the consequences of your actions, then what is the point of attempting to be merciful to those that you will do nothing for in the long term?

    Saving people so that they will only know more terror and suffering is a bit pointless, all in all for the Good. Is such an action merciful or cruel?

    These considerations are part of the ethical dilemmas of responsiblity-duty in ethics. It involves what you must do, whereas the Meta-Golden Rule covers what you should rightfully expect others stronger than you to do to you based upon what you do to those weaker than you.

    Course this doesn’t stop those that are compassionate to the weak from being slaughtered by the strong and cruel, of course. Then again, ethics never did claim that it could alter reality just by your belief in it. Strength and where you fit on the power ladder matters. It has always mattered.

    In contradistinction, one who exhibits mercy obligately in all circumstances is merely weak, either physically or morally, for not exercising judgment.

    Mercy to the cruel is cruelty to the virtuous.

    Again, covered by Meta-Golden ethics. Strongly associated with duties and responsibilities to those under your command. For you cannot afford to cuddle with enemies and also discharge your dutiy to your own. That is for peace time when enemies are no longer enemies. Which is peace is valued in the first place. A state of eternal peace with an eternal presence of enemies, is no peace on earth favorable to us.

    The United States, proven to be strong and worthy at the end of WWII, could afford to be generous and merciful only because they were neither generous nor merciful to their enemies in the war. They did not waste their energy nor lives on trying to bring peace and tranquility to a war zone. Sherman’s statements also vindicate this shift from war to peace time environments.

    Mercy has always been the tool given to the victorious and the powerful to exercise as they will. Those that have not won wars or defeated their enemies are not worthy of being merciful to anyone. They don’t have a high enough bank balance for such profligacy.

    Command responsbility deolves to the commander and his appointed subordinates. One cannot exercise judgement and command when it is not his place to judge or command what is not his.

    An obvious example of the decisions people make in war is the decision to bring new life into a war zone and the decision to help one’s neighbors. How can you afford to be so charitable when all around you is chaos and your own future is very grime and uncertain indeed? Why, you just take out a loan. Helping your neighbors when the fate of your nation is in question, is simply a promise to repay the debt through ensuring that the nation does not fall. When everyone does this, or most people, you have a solid nation of people behind you in war.

    Everyone has a stake in the outcome, now that they have assumed that they will be victorious and hence they can afford indeed to be merciful, compassionate, and charitable to their neighbors in need. However, the reality only comes about if people bring it about. A broken and conquered nation will no longer be able to sustain its social compact with its citizens. It will have had its worthiness to spend resources with profligacy stripped. Just as a man convicted of cowardice in the face is stripped of honor, rank, and command. What use is mercy to such a man except as a reward that he begs for?

    Such is the price of defeat, which is why only insane individuals and nations wish to promote it or even embrace it.

    Reading your post made me realize also that pity, mercy, and compassion depend upon the ability not to exercise them, if one chooses.

    Similar to rights, one only has a choice to exercise rights or not if you still have those rights. Defeat invalidates most if not all the rights of the defeated. Surrender agreements can preserve some rights, but of course that is rather meaningless when fighting terrorists.

    In short, rights need to exist to matter either way. Just as mercy requires an ability to be merciful to matter one way or another. And you lose that ability against the strong or against the victorious.

    (POWs are no longer part of the war effort, the war for them is over, and thus their captors have the power and the ability to be merciful if that is their choice. The Geneva Conventions only ever tried to codify unto paper what already existed on the battlefield. This is an example of how ethics applies to individuals, not just nations or sides in a war. Thus it can never be applied whole sale to an enemy, such as the blanket claim that one must be merciful to so and so in this or that conflict. The situation dictates your ability to do anything, first and foremost. Wishes do not play any part in changing reality)

  42. Gray Says:

    From Mitsu’s article about the “Falluja Incident”:

    “The Americans troops were from the 84th Airborne Division, deployed late last week to stop looting and a roaring local arms trade. They fired at the crowd from Fallujah’s al-Kaat primary and secondary school, a pale-yellow utilitarian concrete building of two storeys and about the length of seven terraced houses.”

    There is no “84th Airborne Division”.

    It’s fabrication. Total bullshit…. You’d believe any calumny against the military.

  43. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I think there was an Eighty-Fourth. Demobbed after WW II. But maybe not…. They weren’t Airborne!!!, either.
    There was an incident in which a mob was threatening, throwing rocks at, and eventually shooting at Marines. Actually, it was probably a couple of agents provocateur trying for a reaction, which they got. A number of civilians were killed, some with rock in hand.
    Problem is, as somebody said, Islam seems to generate a huge number of stupid, angry men who don’t think trying to run a checkpoint is going to have negative consequences, or throwing rocks at armed men will have any negative consequences.
    And abhor misnaming teddy bears, et tedious cetera.

  44. Mitsu Says:

    Perhaps I should not have used the phrase “trigger happy” but to be clear I was not saying that our troops in general are “trigger happy” but that in particular in the context in Fallouja, they were probably nervous and more apt to fire than they would have been had they had more boots on the ground. I didn’t say nor did I mean to imply that I think our troops, as a whole, were “trigger happy” in general. There is evidence, for example, that the specific incident in Fallouja, was likely caused because troops *thought* they were being fired upon when they heard celebratory gunfire nearby. In fact I have sympathy for our troops in such a difficult situation, but at the same time there’s no doubt that the aftermath of that incident caused a lot of turmoil in Fallouja afterwards.

    In response to Sally, the specific ruthlessness I’m speaking of is what Neo was describing above, i.e., purposefully blowing up innocent children to advance your aims, etc. I am not talking about, for example, application of overwhelming military force (when you are forced to use military force), guerrila warfare, deceptive tactics, tactics which might create civilian collateral damage (which is inevitable in war, even if one might try to avoid it), etc. There are plenty of strong, robust tactics which I think are not only appropriate but even highly desirable in war. As I’ve said before, if you’re going to go to war, go to war all the way.

    But I don’t think it helps to have an undisciplined force — such as the example of the well-publicized Blackwater killings recently. It’s instructive to note that many American soldiers commented on how upset they were about those killings, and how it made their jobs harder. Iraqis made a point of distinguishing the behavior of Blackwater from the typical behavior of our soldiers — that is, our soldiers have been conducting themselves generally quite well, despite Abu Ghraib, etc., and particularly recently, with the introduction of Petraeus’ tactics, we have even gained a significant number of allies amongst former insurgents. To me, this is a huge win for us — by winning trust, we’ve won allies, and ultimately it is this which is turning the tide in Iraq more than any other single factor.

    Sure, some “ruthlessness” in a general sense may be necessary in war — but there’s a certain level of brutality (such as that which Neo was commenting on, above) which I don’t believe is in our long-term interest, and I personally think we should never engage in it, ever. I don’t think it’s a strategic advantage either for ourselves or for our enemy. I think we have the upper hand specifically because we DON’T approve of that level of brutality.

  45. Ymarsakar Says:

    Perhaps I should not have used the phrase “trigger happy” but to be clear I was not saying that our troops in general are “trigger happy” but that in particular in the context in Fallouja, they were probably nervous and more apt to fire than they would have been had they had more boots on the ground.

    I’ve already said my piece about how this is illogical.

    There is evidence, for example, that the specific incident in Fallouja, was likely caused because troops *thought* they were being fired upon when they heard celebratory gunfire nearby.

    And if you still think, Mitsu, that individuals will become more disciplined and calmer cause suddenly there are two people that think they are being fired at instead of one, then there is nothing I can do about that.

    In response to Sally, the specific ruthlessness I’m speaking of is what Neo was describing above, i.e., purposefully blowing up innocent children to advance your aims, etc.

    Then you are speaking of a tactic, which has nothing to do with ruthlessness. Anyone can adopt a tactic, it doesn’t mean it will further their goals though.

    But I don’t think it helps to have an undisciplined force — such as the example of the well-publicized Blackwater killings recently

    Why that has to do with Blackwater being undisciplined, as your accussation implies, is something that is non-sensical.

    It has everything, however, to do with enemy propaganda operations facilitated by domestic insurgents here in the US.

    If you believe such propaganda operations, then what do you expect us to do about it?

    To me, this is a huge win for us — by winning trust, we’ve won allies, and ultimately it is this which is turning the tide in Iraq more than any other single factor.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, a lot of those allies are with us because they are against Maliki or the central Shiite government. The same government that issued complaints about Blackwater. Thus your argument has some holes in it if you wish to use Blackwater as support.

    Given your views on international “cooperation”, I doubt you know how to replicate the cementing of trust. Bad foundations there.

    brutality (such as that which Neo was commenting on, above) which I don’t believe is in our long-term interest

    I’m not sure how you think you can refine war down so that there is just the right amount of cruelty you want in it. It doesn’t work like that.

    There is no refining war. Those that try inevitably fail.

    I don’t think it’s a strategic advantage either for ourselves or for our enemy.

    Tactics and strategy are used as if they were the same to you. I’m not sure why you then think you can argue strategy on its own right.

    I think we have the upper hand specifically because we DON’T approve of that level of brutality.

    That’s a tactical consideration, not a strategic one, since you are focusing on a specific tactic and the immediate consequences of it. I have no problems agreeing to the tactical consequences, but you are speaking of long term results as well. Long term results that are not pre-destined or foreordained. I don’t tend to think people should try to plan their wars as if everything will go out right if only they will do X, Y, and Z.

    To be clear, there are negative and positive consequences to US tactics just as there are negative and positive consequences for Islamic Jihad strategy of attacking civilians whenever they can in order to increase recruiting. Those two are not the same, however. You are incorrect to think that the US has some kind of upper hand, and that is just it. Also incorrect is the idea that terrorists are defeating themselves with their tactics or strategy, and that ends it. No, it doesn’t. It never does in war.

  46. Mitsu Says:

    >enemy propaganda operations

    I’m not quite following you here, Ymarsakar: you’re saying that the FBI and our own Army, both of which called the shootings “unjustified” and say they found no evidence to back up Blackwater’s claims they were fired upon — you’re saying this is “enemy propaganda”?

  47. Gray Says:

    I’m not quite following you here, Ymarsakar: you’re saying that the FBI and our own Army….

    You mean the ficticious massacre-that-never-was by the trigger happy troops of the nonexistant ’84th Airborne Division’?

  48. Ymarsakar Says:

    I’m not quite following you here, Ymarsakar: you’re saying that the FBI and our own Army, both of which called the shootings “unjustified”

    How can you act as if you are not spreading enemy propaganda about the FBI and the US Army when you are the one making these clams? You think it is someone other than you, and you are just emulating them? Perhaps this accurately describes your relationship with MSM propaganda operations, but don’t act like this is something originating from the FBI or the US Army.

    say they found no evidence to back up Blackwater’s claims they were fired upon

    The fact that you are even trying to make this into an international or domestic lawfare event belies your attempted efforts at impartiality or neutrality, Mitsu.

    You might as well go with Haditha and argue that instead, there’s far more background data for you to digest and propagate out.

  49. Ymarsakar Says:

    Enemy propaganda operations targeted against the domestic American audience is right there in front of you, Mitsu. Neo has written about it and you can deduce it from indirect evidence as well, if you so choose.

    The Hollywood years, present and past, are explained here as well

    There is nothing about enemy domestic propaganda as seen by me that should be unclear to you, Mitsu. You have my fundamental beliefs, and can use that to deduce everything else even if you don’t choose to utilize the data.

  50. Mitsu Says:

    >How can you act as if you are not spreading enemy
    >propaganda about the FBI and the US Army when you are
    >the one making these clams?

    So, you’re saying that this report:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/world/middleeast/14blackwater.html?ref=todayspaper

    “Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case.”

    or this:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN0439965120071005

    “U.S. military reports from the scene of a shooting incident in Baghdad involving security contractor Blackwater indicates its guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force, The Washington Post reported on Friday.”

    is enemy propaganda? I’m just trying to understand what it is you’re claiming here.

  51. Vince P Says:

    pretty much

  52. Ymarsakar Says:

    Reuters and AP can indeed be considered sources for enemy propaganda.

    That doesn’t have anything to do with your comments about the FBI or any investigations, though, Mitsu. Except to say that lawfare is only one of the ways Reuters and the AP have chosen to cripple US or US affiliated actions in Iraq.

    So in the end, the reports you cited are indeed information operations designed to propagandize an anti-American and anti-Iraq viewpoint to as many people as it can reach.

    You do believe media reports to be as they are stated. But that isn’t what is going on.

  53. Mitsu Says:

    >You do believe media reports to be as they are stated

    Nah, I certainly have my share of skepticism about major media reports. For example, the raft of articles in the New York Times and many other outlets blithely repeating White House-provided information regarding Iraq, most of which was completely discredited after the war (remember Curveball?) — there are tons of examples like that where the media got it wrong. However, those examples are far from always against the Bush Administration — in that case they were supportive of the Bush Administration.

    I find your claim that the reports that the Blackwater shootings were unjustified are “enemy propaganda” are highly unlikely, however, for a number of reasons. First — if these reports were so inaccurate, why weren’t there strong denials coming from the government? To the contrary, even Blackwater, though they continue to claim innocence, seemed to take those reports seriously. Secondly, I’ve read many news stories about that particular incident (and Gray — please do not confuse this issue with the much earlier Falloujah killings, which happened in 2003, as you did above), from a wide variety of different sources, which include direct interviews not only with the victims of the shootings but bystanders who observed the incident from many angles, as well as American soldiers who came on the scene afterwards. Every report I have read is pretty much in agreement that the Blackwater guards fired without provocation and indiscriminately killed men, women, and children. One of the soldiers who came on the scene after the shooting described the fact that there were no casings whatsoever from the supposed fire the Blackwater guards said they took. Another described how upset he was at Blackwater for making their jobs harder in Iraq.

    Or, consider this report from Fox News:

    http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Dec08/0,4670,BlackwaterProsecutions,00.html

    “Blackwater has said its convoy was already under attack before it opened fire. But reports issued separately by the Pentagon and the Iraqi government found Blackwater’s men were unprovoked before they began shooting. Iraq is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution, a demand that has created tension between the two governments.”

    Is Fox News also spouting enemy propaganda?

    Yes, I agree: the “MSM” should be viewed with skepticism. But the “MSM” doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are plenty of alternative ways for the truth to get out, and these reports are so widespread and come from so many sources that the idea that they have all been fabricated by the enemy strikes me as extremely unlikely at this point. Our own Federal government is investigating the shootings and I’ve seen nothing so far, no evidence whatsoever from any source, that indicates Blackwater had justification in killing all those people, other than claims from Blackwater itself.

  54. Gray Says:

    (and Gray — please do not confuse this issue with the much earlier Falloujah killings, which happened in 2003, as you did above),

    No, in your usual moving-the-goalposts wy, you switched the subject to “Blackwater” once I pointed out that there is no “84th Airborne Division” and the “Falluja Incident” in your link never happened.

    I stuck with your original assertion, disproving it, then you tried to drag in “Blackwater”….

  55. Mitsu Says:

    Gray, you’re getting completely confused here. I’m not sitting here listing out incidents just to make our side look bad. I brought up those two incidents to make different points — the first, to note that an incident with our own troops, which I believe may have been partly caused by lack of security due to insufficient troops, caused a major deterioration in Fallujah, and the second, to note that Blackwater’s lack of discipline was contrasted by many Iraqis by our own better behavior. The Blackwater incident actually indicates that the professionalism of the Army has worked in our favor, because all the interviews I’ve read of Iraqis vis a vis the Blackwater incident have indicated that many Iraqis do distinguish between Blackwater and the US Army (though not all, as many American soldiers point out — Blackwater’s lack of discipline has hurt us).

    Regarding the 2003 Fallujah incident, all you “proved” was there was one error in one article about the incident. The incident was widely reported elsewhere, and there’s no controversy whatsoever over whether it occurred. There is controversy over *why* it occurred, but not whether it happened at all.

  56. Gray Says:

    Regarding the 2003 Fallujah incident, all you “proved” was there was one error in one article about the incident. The incident was widely reported elsewhere, and there’s no controversy whatsoever over whether it occurred.

    The other reports were based on this one. Getting the unit that committed the atrocity wrong is more than a minor error.

    It was not widely reported anywhere.

    It is not true.
    There is no “84th Airborne Division”
    It didn’t happen.
    It’s bullshit.

  57. Mitsu Says:

    >The other reports were based on this one

    Simply wrong.

    >It was not widely reported anywhere.

    The funny thing is, Gray, you seem to assume that just because you post things without doing any research or knowing what you’re talking about, you think everyone else does the same thing. Obviously YOU don’t keep track of what is going on in Iraq, but I actually do. Reports came from multiple news agencies who sent independent reporters to the scene, interviewing both victims and soldiers, as well as Army officials making comments about the incident. It was reported on network news, etc., and frequently referred to as one of the major turning points in relations with Fallujah residents prior to the Fallujah offensive. It’s pretty amazing that you missed it since it was major news at the time and has been referred to many times since then.

    A sample of some of the accounts of the incident:

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/04/29/otsc.penhaul/index.html

    “We have been around to one of these city hospitals, a general hospital in Fallujah. A duty doctor there said he counted six dead in his hospital last night, more than 20 wounded that he treated personally. Other wounded came through the hospital doors that he didn’t have time to treat….”

    “From what we understand, the U.S. military has said it will withdraw from the school. That could be later in the day. It could be tomorrow. We also understand that they have been talking, saying they may send in a tank unit to try to keep some kind of order here. They may withdraw altogether from this sector.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2989923.stm

    ‘Magid lives across the street from a school in Falluja where just after 8 pm local time US forces fired on a demonstration.

    American soldiers say that Iraqis in the crowd shot at them. Magid says that’s not the case.

    “We didn’t use any weapons but they shot at us,” he said.

    “We were just saying slogans, No to Saddam, No to Bush, Yes to Islam.”

    Magid says demonstrators did throw stones at the soldiers, and that the Americans were saying over loudspeakers that Iraqis should not use weapons.’

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/jan-june03/incident_04-29.html

    “MARGARET WARNER: John Burns, welcome. There’s been tremendous confusion about what happened in Fallujah last night. What can you tell us about how this entire episode unfolded?

    JOHN BURNS: Well, I think the reporters, including one of ours, who were at the site would say that it’s too early to tell. It’s a complicated story. You have the account given by the U.S. forces there, and you have the conflicting accounts given by some of the people who were in the crowd.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,85443,00.html

    “Americans and Iraqis gave sharply differing accounts of Monday night’s shooting. U.S. forces insisted they opened fire only upon armed men — infiltrators among the protest crowd, according to Col. Arnold Bray, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 325 Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division (search), whose troops were involved in the shooting.

    ….Protesters insisted their demonstration was unarmed and peaceful.

    Dr. Ahmed Ghandim al-Ali, director of Fallujah’s general hospital, said the clash killed 13 Iraqis and injured about 75. The dead included three boys ages 8 to 10, he said.”

    As I said, there is controversy about why it happened, but no controversy over whether it happened. Just because you write things without bothering to check your facts, Gray, doesn’t mean all of us do that.

  58. Gray Says:

    http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=284256885273104

    PENHAUL: We have been around to one of these city hospitals, a general hospital in Fallujah. A duty doctor there said he counted six dead in his hospital last night, more than 20 wounded that he treated personally.

    Dr. Ahmed Ghandim al-Ali, director of Fallujah’s general hospital, said the clash killed 13 Iraqis and injured about 75. The dead included three boys ages 8 to 10, he said.”

    He’s the only source of the casualty information and he’s lying. It’s not clear from any of your other sources that there were any casualties at all!

    Can’t you read anything critically?

    Obviously YOU don’t keep track of what is going on in Iraq, but I actually do.

    I’m in the National Guard, I’ve been in the military for 16 years. I was a Military Intelligence officer. I rabidly consume any and all information about “what’s going on”.

    The difference is that I have a functioning bullshit detector, and unlike you, I don’t believe every negative thing said about our “trigger happy boys”.

    It’s enemy propaganda and you are dutifully reporting it.

  59. Ymarsakar Says:

    Every report I have read is pretty much in agreement that the Blackwater guards fired without provocation and indiscriminately killed men, women, and children

    Did I not just say that you believe media reports to be as stated? You obviously think that if you believe more than one report from the media, that this suddenly makes things better. Similar to the belief that causes you to think that with more buddies around, a single individual will naturally act calmer and more disciplined in war. Your theories about human conduct and behavior are grossly distorted and mistaken. Everything else follows from that, including your opinions about Blackwater. This is not an argument about reports or their accuracy, because even if all the reports you use are accurate, you would not be able to derive the correct conclusions from those reports given your personal beliefs, Mitsu.

    This subject is about as useful to discuss as whether you think you are pragmatic or utilitarian. The consequences are the same in the end.
    One of the soldiers who came on the scene after the shooting described the fact that there were no casings whatsoever from the supposed fire the Blackwater guards said they took.

    That is the exact same thing they said about Haditha. These are propaganda operations. What confuses you about that statement, exactly? Whether an enemy shoots and misses or shoots and kills, that still makes them the enemy. What is so philosophically complex and pragmatically impossible about that situation that makes you refuse to understand, Mitsu?
    You neither accept nor understand propaganda, allied or enemy, Mitsu. The answer to whether Fox News is engaging or helping along operations of such a nature will do you absolutely no good. Stick to issues of pragmatism rather than filghts of fancy.

    I don’t think the MSM shoud be viewed with skepticism, so thus you cannot act like you are agreeing with me when you say you view the MSM with skepticism. That is an easy logic chain to grasp, I hope.
    After numerous posts from me in reply to your probes, Mitsu, the best you can do is to imply that I view the MSM with skepticism? Come on.
    Propaganda operations are not always “fabricated” just for you or me. You don’t understand the nature of propaganda, so how do you think you can tell whether a report is part of a propaganda operation or not? If you want a direct statement about where I disagree, it is that propaganda doesn’t need to fabricate any reports. Propaganda can use 100% of the absolute truth in order to deceive 95% of the total target population. In this case, the details concerning Blackwater are so much a carbon copy of Afghanistan’s deathblossom and Haditha’s deathblossom that it would be obvious that once Haditha ran down and lost its propaganda value, that our enemies would seek to renew their offensive with another, seemingly unrelated, incident.
    Obviously YOU don’t keep track of what is going on in Iraq, but I actually do

    You are keeping track of what our domestic insurgency and our foreign enemies want you to keep track of. Do you honestly think that propaganda operations start with one source in the media and try to convince the target based upon one source? No they use multiple sources, in order to confer legitimacy based upon the fact that people, like you Mitsu, will believe 5 people saying the same thing more than you would one person saying it.

    One of the soldiers interviewed wouldn’t happen to be named someone Thomas Scott would he?

  60. Ymarsakar Says:

    TO make things absolutely crystal clear to you Mitsu, even if you and Gray read from the same intel data source and methods, you would still come to different conclusions.

    It doesn’t matter what sources you or Gray uses, that is totally beside the point. Given your fundamental differences in philosophical belief, Mitsu, you believe what you are espousing is not enemy propaganda, that it is accurate because there are more than one “report”. SUch things are not good reasons for Gray to discard his beliefs or his philosophy.

  61. Mitsu Says:

    All right, guys, you’re obviously entitled to your beliefs — it seems to me that if President Bush himself appeared on every network and proclaimed something that you guys thought was even remotely critical of anything we, or even private contractors, do in Iraq, you’d assume it was enemy propaganda.

  62. Ymar Says:

    Unlike you, Mitsu, I don’t believe everything I see from the media. There is such a thing as a psychological profile for President Bush and other individuals in the media. Consistent analysis calls for more than just believing whatever the networks proclaim, Mitsu.

    If Bush actually went on every network to proclaim a denial about Blackwater, it would indeed be part of enemy propaganda because Bush does not interfere with legal investigations, even if they are instigated by his political foes. Thus the media would have no reason to show such footage unless their aim is deception and setting Bush up for a fall.
    Or they could just be guillible to being manipulated by Rather documents and footage, that’s always available.

    There is no depth the media will not sink to. There is no enemy so heinous that the media will not help. You do not accept this, Mitsu, which is why you believe everything the networks show you to be as they state it.

  63. Mitsu Says:

    >There is no depth the media will not sink to

    What you and Gray are suggesting is simply nonsensical. Sure, I can believe a reporter or even a whole news organization might be involved in purposefully or unwittingly promulgating misinformation or disinformation. But certain events, such as the two under discussion here, were covered by many reporters from many independent organizations, included interviews (if you bothered to read the links above or do your own Googling of the two incidents) with a huge variety of eyewitnesses, include comments made by officials of our own government and military, all quoted by many independent journalists. Gray derides the one quote by one doctor, but that article and others also quote many other people from many other reporters.

    Furthermore, our government itself has plenty of opportunity to refute or deny the veracity of media reports. For example, as noted above, our military claims our troops were fired upon in the 2003 incident, quoting one officer as agreeing that most of the protesters were unarmed but the fire came from agents provacateurs in the crowd. Nowhere does any report say something to the effect that the entire incident, reported on by multiple independent reporters, did not occur, as Gray quite implausibly claims.

    I’d make a similar argument regarding the Blackwater case, which the federal government is (to its credit) investigating for possible criminal prosecution of the guards involved in the shooting. There have been numerous accounts of the incident, including eyewitness interviews by reporters from many different organizations, and multiple reports of sources within the Army and FBI who say that our own government investigators believe the shootings were either entirely unjustified (as reports claim the Army concluded) or mostly (14 out of 17) unjustified (reports saying some FBI investigators have come to that conclusion, which is only slightly less harsh than the Pentagon’s conclusion). At present, the latest report is that 3 guards in particular are being focused on as possible targets of prosecution, and the main difficulty is that the law is vague about whether or not contractors can be prosecuted for crimes committed overseas (a loophole that Congress closed last year, with the approval of President Bush).

    Sure, one can be as “skeptical” as you wish, but your thesis of a propaganda net so wide, and so all-encompassing, basically stretches credulity. If these two major, extremely important incidents in Iraq have been fabricated by the all-powerful “media” — there should be strong attempts by the government to discredit these reports — where are they? Unless you believe that this has already happened and the evil media are suppressing it. That somehow our own government is unable to get their message out. That, to me, is just not credible.

    However, you’re welcome to your beliefs — it’s evident that no amount of evidence is sufficient to convince you of anything you don’t want to believe.

  64. Ymar Says:

    Eyewitness reports are always flawed due to how people arrange their memories. This goes double and triple for violent acts. People don’t understand combat so how do you expect them to remember the events in question as they really occured?

    These witnesses are nameless and faceless variables, for the most part. Not exactly what I would call verifiable sources nor reliable sources for life and death intelligence.

    This doesn’t even get into the fact that the media is incapable of correlating data sources and details gathered on the ground, either, assuming that they actually gathered the data and weren’t “given” the witness accounts by stringers and AQ disinformation propaganda operatives.

    I have read your link before this, and it admits that the FBI does not have jurisdiction over Blackwater actions in Iraq. Whatever thought process you are using in order to use FBI investigations to justify your conclusions about Blackwater, are invalid and non-sensical.
    Perhaps you can make sense of them, but I freely admit I cannot.

    Stop with the fabrication strawman, Mitsu. Such things aren’t important to my line of argument.

    I will never accept your thinking that if Blackwater was innocent, the “government” should have openly declared it so. Mission Accomplished and all the other things people like you don’t tend to be satisfied by, Mitsu, is only one such example of why.

    No amount of evidence is sufficient to convince you of anything that conflicts with your cherished philosophical and so called pragmatic beliefs, Mitsu. I already pre-empted you on this argument. There is nothing to discuss more here and there is certainly nothing you can add by agreeing with me that my philosophies prevent me from being swayed by your arguments and proclamations either.

    Propaganda operations are a matter of effort. Not capability. The US government is very capable of countering anti-American propaganda. The will and the effort are not there. Just as you are totally capable of changing your erroneous philosophical beliefs, but the will and intent are both absent.

  65. Gray Says:

    Mitsu, did you read this:

    http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=284256885273104

    The reports out of Fallujah came from Al Jazeera, the Western press repeated and amplified it.

    It was ‘widely reported’, but poorly sourced.

    You have to understand that when you are dealing wiith journalists, or ‘the media’, you are talking to a group of profoundly stupid people who became journalists for fame and ‘to make a difference’.

    They are the stupidest and least curious people you will ever meet: true dimwits for whom the leftist siren call of ‘fairness’ is a license to lie.

    There was no ‘massacre by trigger happy boys’ there as you contend, there aren’t even any credible reports of any casualties.

    It’s the “Jenin Massacre” all over again! Remember that? Another fake massacre–cooked up by the same sources for the same reasons….

    The Army didn’t release that report in the editorial, it was leaked. It is not the army’s job to refute civilian media.

    Do you even understand what you are asking for when you want “strong government action to discredit the media”? Do you know what that would look like?

    You seem, at every turn, to be severely limited in imagination, understanding and critical reasoning abilities.

    You have no understanding of the military, its role and tactics and you seem to live in a very strange and sheltered world. I can’t imagine what weird hothouse of bookish speculation and theoretical wonder you work in, if you work at all….

    I don’t think you have enough experience out here in the real world to even begin to evaluate the truth, agendas, facts and lies coming out of Iraq.

  66. Ymar Says:

    Gray, I don’t think experience plays that critical a part. There are plenty of military lawyers or those with military experience, like Murtha, with similar beliefs about such things. It is not the work people do or did, it is the beliefs they have chosen to associate themselves with. The basic assumptions and axioms of their philosophy, which forms part of their self-identity matrix.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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