Friday, January 07, 2005

From the Mailbag--Part One

One of the strange things about blogging is the frequency with which complete strangers unburden themselves--not to mention the casual vulgarity that occasionally accompanies anonymity.

The good folks at Antiwar.com recently published a little piece I wrote arguing that Americans are woefully uninformed about what is, and what is not, happening in Iraq. As a confessing evangelical, I paid particular attention to the strangeness being peddled by Christian leaders and media outlets.

To make a long story short, there were some unhappy folks, who took time out of their busy lives (maybe they aren't very busy) to harangue little ole me.

One critic, Joe, wrote to upbraid me for ignoring the charge that foreign terrorists were trained in highjacking techniques in Iraq. Joe wrote:

"Come on people! Get a grip! I have a question for you Darrell Dow. Why did you not mention Salman Pak, the Boeing 707 airliner and the two Iraqi military defectors that were debriefed by U.S. Intelligence officers? According to these two defectors, Salman Pak contained a Boeing 707 which was used to train non-Iraqis in the hijacking of an airliner without weapons. 'Saddam's intelligence service, the mukhabarat,' carried out the training of these terrorists. 'After September 11th, a private US satellite photo company, Space Imaging, went through its archives and found a photo that included a plane parked in the Salman Pak compound.' Salman Pak is not or should I say, was not an air base. OK, the pieces are starting to come together. I recently listened to a CNN report that stated Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda claimed full responsibility for the 911 terrorist attacks. This is just a small portion of the information linking Al Qaeda with Sadam and still you want me to believe that there was no connection."

Joe at least had the good taste to remain civil. Unlike some of my correspondents, he did not openly express the desire that I spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, wish my children harm, or curse me. So I think Joe is entitled to a response.

I didn't mention Salman Pak for a very good reason--because it has been debunked. In The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh dispenses with the notion that foreign terrorists were being trained by Iraqi security forces. Hersh wrote:

In separate interviews with me, however, a former C.I.A. station chief and a former military intelligence analyst said that the camp near Salman Pak had been built not for terrorism training but for counter-terrorism training. In the mid-eighties, Islamic terrorists were routinely hijacking aircraft. In 1986, an Iraqi airliner was seized by pro-Iranian extremists and crashed, after a hand grenade was triggered, killing at least sixty-five people. (At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war, and America favored Iraq.) Iraq then sought assistance from the West, and got what it wanted from Britain’s MI6. The C.I.A. offered similar training in counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East. “We were helping our allies everywhere we had a liaison,” the former station chief told me. Inspectors recalled seeing the body of an airplane—which appeared to be used for counter-terrorism training—when they visited a biological-weapons facility near Salman Pak in 1991, ten years before September 11th. It is, of course, possible for such a camp to be converted from one purpose to another. The former C.I.A. official noted, however, that terrorists would not practice on airplanes in the open. “That’s Hollywood rinky-dink stuff,” the former agent said. “They train in basements. You don’t need a real airplane to practice hijacking. The 9/11 terrorists went to gyms. But to take one back you have to practice on the real thing.”


Hersh isn't the only journalist to make mincemeat of the alleged Iraqi/al-Qaeda connection. Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder wrote, "The Bush administration's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda - one of the administration's central arguments for a pre-emptive war - appears to have been based on even less solid intelligence than the administration's claims that Iraq had hidden stocks of chemical and biological weapons." Strobel goes on to quote on unnamed official who says, "We could find no provable connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda."

Strobel also dealt explicitly with the Salman Pak issue. He wrote that:

"Iraqi defectors alleged that Saddam's regime was helping to train Iraqi and non-Iraqi Arab terrorists at a site called Salman Pak, south of Baghdad. The allegation made it into a September 2002 white paper that the White House issued.


The U.S. military has found no evidence of such a facility."


Finally, if you don't trust journalists, simply consult the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission, who found no credible operational link between Hussein and Bin-Laden.

I'm sure this will not satisfy Joe, but at least I tried.

Another critic wrote to lament my lack of historical perspective, and compared my writing to that of a high-schooler (I do hope Ms. Smith would be proud). Mr. Long's email (in italics) and my response are below.

Truly Mr. Dow demonstrates the first word of his article title - ignorance. His naiveté in regard to the Iraqi situation is pronounced. His perspective is quite short-sighted. And he is probably fairly ignorant of the greater dynamics involved - that of worldwide radical and non-radical Islamic expansion. God bless 'em all.

First, let me be clear--Western Civilization faces a substantive threat from militant Islam. Therefore, we must:

1) Defend Christian, or even quasi-Christian, peoples who face threats from Isalmists (I am not propsoing that this support necessarily be miliary in nature). Of course, our government has taken exactly the opposite tack for a decade. NATO and American intervention in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Albania on behalf of drug-running Islamists was strategically stupid and morally bankrupt. Every terrorist incident of recent vintage has some connection to Bosnian Muslims. Seems to me that at the very least we ought not to help our enemies.

Likewise, we have a strategic interest in developing closer ties with the Russians, who are dealing with Chechen terrorists. Instead of strengthening that relationship, however, we have foolishly expanded NATO, meddled in the Ukrainian elections, etc., giving credence to Russian fears of American encirclement.

2) Prevent a potential fifth column by restricting immigration. Unfortunately, neither "conservatives," represented by Mr. Bush, nor liberals have the political will to seal the border.

3) Play one sect of Muslims against another. As in Christendom, Islam is fractured between numerous sects. Our aim ought to be encouraging that division and helping to foster secularist governments that are willing to protect Christians from persecution.

In Iraq, we have toppled a secular regime that largely protected the rights of Christians and are seeking to replace it with a "democratic" regime which will almost certainly enforce Islamic Law and forge closer relations with Iran--the true Islamic power in the region.

On the eve of the invasion, Pat Buchanan prophetically predicted that, "Just as Israel’s invasion of Lebanon ignited a guerrilla war that drove her bloodied army out after 18 years, a U.S. army in Baghdad will ignite calls for jihad from Morocco to Malaysia" and unite the Islamic world against us.

It is also necessary to recognize that while Islamism is a global problem, militant Islam is largely a regional phenomenon (as long as the West protects itself with stringent immigration restrictions) and their are natural barriers (i.e., India, China, and Russia) to its expansion.

In short, the goal must be to contain radical Islam in the same way that Communism was contained--keeping it in a box militarily, but more importantly, defeating it with a better idea. That idea, by the way, is not democratism or capitalism, but Christianity.

The world is a big bad sandbox Mr. Dow. There are a number of kids playing in it who are not nice kids. Check your history books - it's always been that way throughout the centuries.

Yeah, I believe that is called original sin. But wouldn't it be better to stay in our sandbox rather than going and kicking over the sand castles of others and than feigning shock when they respond with the only tools at their disposal?

The current hour is not identical to WW2, but there are some parallels - some really ugly ones. A lot of people were killed (Did you hear about it? Have you forgotten about it?). A lot of those who were ultimately defeated had bitter hatred toward the allies who conquered them - before and after the war. Those who were conquered had their own goals and nationalistic plans that they viewed as perfectly legitimate. Who's to say they weren't legitimate, right Mr. Dow?

Yes, I do recall that 3,000 Americans died. It is you who seems to have forgotten. While a ragtag group of special forces searches for the perpetrator of that heinous, ungodly act, the bulk of our military is bringing "democracy" to Iraq, after toppling a government that had nothing to do with 9/11.

And frankly, what does WWII have to do with the "war on terror?" A more apt historical analogy might be to consider the numerous corpses of imperial powers that litter the 20th century. As Pat Buchanan says, terrorism works:

Michael Collins used terror to bring into being an Irish Free State. Menachem Begin blew up the King David Hotel to drive the British out of Palestine. The Mau Mau used terror to run the British out of Kenya. Nelson Mandela's ANC used terror to overthrow white minority rule in South Africa, as did Mugabe in Rhodesia. The FALN used terror to drive the French out of Algeria. Islamists used terror to run the Marines out of Lebanon. And Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Al Aqsa Brigades are using terror to drive the Israelis off the West Bank and out of Gaza.


Unwittingly, America has been led by neoconservative ideologues into such a conflict--and it is costing us dearly in blood, treasure, and prestige.

It was a pretty rough deal "smoothing" things out and establishing legitimate democratic elections back then (after the major fighting had stopped [sound familiar, Mr. Dow?]). The allies had a lot of nerve didn't they Mr. Dow? How dare they impose their Christian-based force on the philosophies and religions of Japan and Germany!Outrageous.

We imposed Christianity on Germany and Japan? I must have missed that day in 11th grade social studies.

Oh, and the terrible post-war consequences suffered by the Axis powers as a result of our defeating them! Isn't it just a wonder that in spite of our post war brutality and meddling that they were even able to survive (let alone become two of the world's most dynamic nations with some of the most remarkable economies). We should just be ashamed of ourselves for having done what we did!

The article is just another of those tired and canned spoutings that is full of cynicism and lacks any real solutions, lacks any clear historical perspective, and is full of unfounded accusation. Somewhat like a high school essay. Your naiveté is showing Mr. Dow.

Thanks for writing. You may now return to 'Hannity and Colmes.'

1 Comments:

Blogger Carmon Friedrich said...

This is great, Darrell. Why don't you post it, or at least mention it, on Backwater Report (hint, hint)? Keep preaching common sense and truth!

12:17 AM  

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