Sunday :: Jul 25, 2004

And Petty Aides All In A Row

by pessimist

I have a copy of the 9/11 Commission report, and if even half of this is real, we as a nation have a lot of thinking to do!

I'm only on Page 92, and already I marvel at how come Al Qaeda hasn't hit us harder and more often. Agencies who go out of their way NOT to share information, proceedural rules that are promulgated to build up empires and not evidence, control given to a few who have no broader vision of how to lead or what their mission is - and we're still just covering the history of The Day and the background leading up to it.

Here's the thing that gets me the most. Osama is reported to be paying many of his major operatives less in a month than many of our 'protectors' are making in a day!

So the first question I ask is: are we taxpayers getting our protection money's worth?

Reading the report, I hear the echoes of the Cold War, as if Al Qaeda is a modern-day Communist Menace hiding behind every tree and under every bed. We haven't yet gotten to where there's one behind every desk in Washington, but Senator Joe McCarthy is too busy performing his duties as a deceased person to participate. But in reading the report, which relates all of these ties that Osama has put together among all of the Muslim terror groups around the world, the nest question begins to form.

If Osama's Al Qaeda were half as organized and half as well connected as it's given in the report, then why does the State of Israel continue to exist? Israel's vaunted security forces could not withstand an attack by forces as determined as the report makes Al Qaeda out to be. They would be out-numbered, out-gunned, and out-general-ed. But we all know that isn't happening, for as small as Israel is, their security forces demonstrably actually are as determined as Al Qaeda is reported by the commission to be.

It's widely reported, and I have little reason to doubt this (it's even mentioned in the 9/11 report!) that the State of Israel, and the United State's support of it, are a major reason why Muslim Fundamentalist terrorism exists in the world. Our blindness to being so one-sided in such a critical issue, where a more balanced approach is needed (and which would be effective, as Jimmy Carter demonstrated with the Camp David Accords), is a major reason why Muslim religious beliefs have been shaped to use us as the Great Satan of that religion by Osama and others like him, which gives a certain fervor to the actions and sacrifices of the Al Qaeda operatives. The fact that we REFUSE to take a more even-handed approach in efforts to come up with a fair and sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine only makes matters much worse. It is this refusal which has led to the terrorist acts which have been launched against us.

One can only be ignored when grieving a vital issue for so long! Isn't this why the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard 'round the world?

Something else impresses me so far. We have all of this detailed knowledge of Osama and his activities dating back into the Russian occupation of Afghanistan that was covered in just a few months. It couldn't all have been gathered in that short time!

The report does say that there was more data gathered than could be examined, and that many agencies had NO computers, much less modern ones. There were also few Arabic-speakers among the analysts, and only six colleges even offer courses majoring in Arabic.

There are many other infrastructural shortcomings that assisted with the 9/11 attacks, and I won't recite the lists here. But just taking these basic ones, I have to wonder why this is so? There were no computers back in 1942 when beached ship's musicians from Battleship Row were drafted to be code-breakers by the US Navy and set to the sucessful task of cracking the secret JN-25 communications codes of the Imperial Japanese Fleet!

Have we become SO dependent upon technology that we are helpless without it? Interestingly, the commission report leans in that direction.

It repeatedly cites examples of where technology was expected to do a job that it was only supposed to assist with. Take scanning luggage at the airports. The report mentions that dangerous objects could easily be confused with normal everyday objects when X-rayed, so the operators tended to the lenient side. This, added to pressures exerted by the airlines to not inconvenience passengers, makes for a sloppy security system, which was easily breached by 19 men who didn't have the education, training, and technology available to their enemies.

The report is scathing about the lack of preparedness among our agencies charged with defending the nation. There was no idea among the various studies that ever considered a suicide mission would even occur. Such a concept still evades our consciousness. Even after withstanding the withering kamikaze attacks performed by the Japanese in WWII, Americans can't seem to understand that people really can seek death when attacking an enemy, especially if it enhances the chances for a successful attack.

It's this acceptance of certain death as a part of your mission to smite your enemies that immediately defeats the reactionary attitude of 'Let's kill 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out!' Far from deterring these operatives, it merely gives them more incentive to attack, for they are willing to allow their loved ones to die if it helps with the defeat of their enemy.

As one air traffic controller is quoted in the report, "This is a new kind of war" - and in typical American fashion, we are well-prepared for the last one.

The report notes that American defense planning is still looking at scenarios in which the enemy is another nation-state, with understandable lines of command and control. Al Qaeda isn't so easily categorized nor understood, for its command and control changes daily, and its use of modern technology elicits almost envious remarks by the commission, whose observations about the surveillance capabilities of our intelligence community reeks with frustration over the obsolete equipment, and the fact that satellites aren't particularly useful against individuals as they were against brigades of Societ infantry. This makes it hard to attack Al Qaeda while they can easily attack us.

But even if the satellites were useful against individuals and the equipment was state-of-the-art, there is still the problem of sharing information among the various intelligence agencies and hoping that someone there will 1) read the reports and 2) see that something is done in response to it.

So far, every agency has had flaws which aided the 9/11 attack. but the commission's leanings toward creating an itelligence czar ignore the fact that as more and more comes under the control of fewer and fewer people, the need for these people to be super-human grows. The commission repeatedly makes the point that all of the field offices of the FBI, for example, operated on their own agendas with no influence or direction to speak of from Washington.

About the only way I can see such a structure exist, and function effectively, would be to take a page from the Last War thinking and create a super bureaucracy, organized and controlled in a military manner, which would mean huge numbers of people. In WWII, over 15 million people were in uniform under military command. As America is now over twice that size, such an organization would involve about 32 million people, or almost twice the population of Iraq (which this government has little-to-no control over!).

Let's just look at one practical reason why this is Last War thinking: ALL of the necessary people for such an organization would have to come from the civilian working class of about 100 million people. That would leave only 68 million people to generate enough economic activity among them to support the 32 million on anti-terror defense - in an economy which sheds good jobs and replaces them with less-than-living-wage jobs. There would need to be major tax increases - even for the top 1%!

In addition, the commission calls for increases in border agents, customs agents, FBI and CIA, etc. Run up the numbers, and you can see that at some point, every American will be involved in defending the nation against tens of thousands of Muslim extremists. Even if Al Qaeda is 50,000 strong, 290+ million Americans far outnumbers them. But to take this step actually aids Al Qaeda's goal of toppling the Great Satan, for we would collapse economically as a nation if we aren't busy keeping it up. When all of the people are cops, who are the donut makers?

So there has to be another way to deal with this problem. I'm sure that the commission has their recommendations. But as I see it, it was this sort of warfare that brought about the creation of the US Special Forces. We taxpayers have been charged dearly for their training and support. Their numbers have to nearly equal Al Qaeda! Why aren't they the front line in the "War on Terra' that Bush likes to throw in our faces every chance he gets? The special forces are highly motivated and highly trained people, but their leadership doesn't know what to do with them or how to use them best.

This is the folly of expecting only a few higher-ups to have all of the power. They are typically fighting that Last War, and aren't up on all of the latest technology, strategy, or tactics. But they are up on empire-building, status climbing, and back-stabbing!

The way I see it, the Generals (and this would include General-wannabes like the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse) have two jobs to do: they set the goals of the operation, and the supply the means to carry it out. After that, they have to trust those that they send in to do the job to do it successfully. This lesson gets relearned each time we go to war again, and at a cost of hundreds if not thousands of lives.

It's up to the Generals of this war to recognize that they can ONLY establish the goal and provide the means. They will have to surrender control to those they send out to do the fighting, instead of creating dangerous laws they can't enforce for a country that won't survive two simultaneous assaults.

pessimist :: 5:31 PM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!