Friday, June 09, 2006

The Patient Died, But the Operation Was A Success!

This has to be one of the weirdest things I've ever seen: a vicious psycopath hours after being killed by a bomb, presented like a work of art.

Do I feel emotionally, spiritually or intellectually challenged? Absolutely!
And what does this picture say to me? It says to me that our world is increasingly defined not by intelligence and reason but stupidity and insanity, and in the most inane and seemingly inconsequential ways.

Last week the RCMP nabbed some would-be terrorists after a good deal of investigative work, and tagged a couple Brits in the process. The Brits recently conducted a major raid which has yet to turn up anything. One suspect got shot in the shoulder.
In the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London an innocent man was shot to death by police, but continued investigations nabbed the London bombers accomplices and supporters.
After the 3/11 train bombings in Spain, police work tracked down the perpetrators—some of them fought to the death others were captured. German and Italian police too have made their own arrests of potential and proven terrorists.

Note the common theme here—investigate and police.

Now; the US get’s tipped off as to the whereabouts of Zarqawi. By all accounts he's a sociopath and a psychopath and perhaps conflated by US rhetoric to a significant political figure in Iraq (a country where currently politics equals death and death equals politics) but still at least a self-proclaimed force, the leader of “Al Qaida in Iraq”.

And what’s the American reaction to the intelligence? Do they deploy Special Forces to grab him and his cohorts, so that they can then interrogate him and his colleagues and learn something about how he ran his operations, what resources and connections he had?


Instead they drop a 500lb bomb on him (that’s the smallest bomb in the US inventory at the moment).
In case you forgot, the London and Madrid bombs were only 10-15 pounds and they weren’t encased in fragmentary metal (which adds to the initial explosive force and distributes shrapnel with an initial velocity of around 2700 feet per second—two to three times faster than a bullet).

This is what the US calls a precision strike.

This is how the US apparently combats terrorist organizations—they just try and kill the leader.
I guess the idea here is that once you knock off the top guy, you fuck-up the entire org chart.
Now some poor sap has to re-arrange the Power Point presentation—assuming there’s a working laptop left after the precision strike.
Whatever evidence and intelligence there might have been at the site, if it hasn’t been charred to a crisp or blown away, it lies in the rubble waiting to be found after days of searching.

As many observers have already noted, on both sides of the US political aisle and the Arab press as well, whatever Zarqawi’s real or imagined political or military influence, his sudden and violent death is essentially irrelevant.

Had he and his cohorts lived, some intelligence and insight might have been gathered and lives might have been saved.

But no—Somebody high up decided it was better to blow Zarqawi to bits rather than to capture him alive and try to use him. Maybe US forces are stretched too thin these days to manage such a task.

Rule of thumb: when trying to prosecute or present any case, preserve the evidence rather than destroy it, and try not kill any material witnessess, or indeed the accused--it kind of undermines everything.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

DHS and the "Three F's"--Fear, Fairness and Fu-something else

Michael Chertoff using his immense psycho-kinetic powers to levitate the new Magic 8-Ball "threat matrix" device that reveals to him and him alone who will attack the US, when and where, and who deserves security moolah. He can also steal your watch without you noticing.

The DHS has almost halved “anti-terror” grants to Washington D.C. and New York City, redistributing the savings from the $1.7 billion budget to other states by using a shiny new risk assessment formula.

I for one am comforted to know they have a new risk assessment formula because the one being used around August 6th 2001; the old “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” formula didn’t work out very well.
And let’s not forget the formula applied in the 2004 election to Ohio’s Warren County (where it only takes 5,000 people to be a “city”). No one saw that coming (except Dick Cheney and obviously we can’t keep bothering him about where the next attack might take place).
Apparently the DHS feels that the entire U.S. is fair game for freedom hating freedom-haters so anti-terror funds should be distributed equally because equality is what America is all about.

And what’s the new risk assessment formula all about? How does it all work?
Well according to spokesman Russ Knocke the DHS "...crunches millions of bits of data in a powerful new matrix” to determine where anti-terror funding is most needed.

To give you some idea of the scale of the task, a million bits is the equivalent of about 15 pages of text!
advances in data storage have resulted in a “floppy disk” that can hold a whopping 11,520,000 bits (or 1.44 "megabytes"), thus making the task of defending the United States a lot easier.

As for the “matrix” Tracy A. Henke, assistant secretary for grants and training at DHS can’t provide exact details of the newer, fairer system but apparently it include factors such as population, vulnerable assets and intelligence information, all of which are assessed by review panels made up of officials from 47 states who can’t be identified (I guess the three unrepresented states had to attend their kids’ school play or some such). Grants are also judged on the “effectiveness” of the applicant’s planning as well as spelling and neatness of the great applications.

As an example, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff gave high marks to NYC for their current security efforts, suggesting that NYC didn’t need as much money any more, and had to “ding” the city $83 million for a poor job in articulating its needs and filing by fax instead of electronically even though a state official provided a written affirmation of the successful application and that the city could “log in” anytime to view it (ever tried to log-in to a fax?)

Also working against New York is the fact that as Ms. Henke carefully explained certain landmarks, bridges and tall buildings assumed by most New-Yorkers to be landmarks, bridges and tall buildings were counted in other categories such as bridges and tall buildings (but NOT landmarks). Additionally NYC apparently has way too many financial institutions worth less than $8 billion, and no public transportation infrastructure worth mentioning (a lot of it is undergound so who would notice, really?).

The famed Manhattan skyline with it's towering 5th-floor walkups, as seen from Washington

As Tony Snow pointed out to the whining press:

The point of homeland security, as I said before, is to provide security for the entire homeland”: Hence, Lousville Kentucky deserves a 41.2% increase to help protect its racetrack whilst Omaha, Nebraska—home of Offut Air Force Base and the Strategic Air Command deserves a 38% increase in funds, just in case it ever receives a credible terrorist threat. It never has of course, but as it is also home to a slew of insurance companies; well you know how they like to insure against disasters.

Frankly the New York politicians are simply crying about losing federal money, money they and the liberal elitist New Yorkers don’t really need.

As Michael Chertoff said: “…I do think it's fair to ask this question: After a city gets $500 million, more than twice as much as the next-largest city, is it correct to assume they should continue to get the same amount of money year after year after year after year with everybody else dividing up what remains?"
And he’s right, of course! Why indeed should a city of 8 million (NYC) get more than twice as much money as the next largest city (Los Angeles, population 3.8 million )? Because aren’t they both American cities, and don’t the terrorists hate all Americans?

Besides, as Tony Snow also pointed out, just because NYC lost $83 million this year, the grants for preventing and preparing for terrorist attacks will be reconsidered annually and could change if some grand and unforeseen need arises—like perhaps someone flying fuel-laden hijacked airliners into tall landmark buildings. Or just blowing something else up that's really big and well known in a highly populated, symbolocally significant area---like say, Wyoming or Kentucky.