Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iraq drifting towards democracy

There seems to be a lot more interest in Iraq as a political issue than really drilling down and talking about where Iraq is really going. My firm belief is that Iraq is in "drift mode", but with a bias towards democracy. No sane person would want Iraq to be in its current state of chaos, but I think that there are enough elements in place, albeit drifting and evolving, that we actually could see an interesting form of democracy emerge. It may not have all of the formality and pretty structure that we know and love in the western world, but it may be the best that makes sense for the Middle East. It won't happen tomorrow of this year or next year, but within a few years. IT will likely be a form of federalism with a number of "states" only loosely connected as a "country".

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, September 25, 2006

Do the Democrats have a real and credible plan for dealing with al Qaeda, Iraq, and homeland security?

In an email message to me yesterday, Howard Dean (or his email ghost-writer) informed me that:

You know that Democrats have a real plan for destroying Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, fixing the mess in Iraq, and really securing us at home.

Actually, I don't know about any such plan. In fact, as supportive as I am of the Democrats, one of my big worries is that they don't have a plan.

Actually, they do have a plan, and here it is:

Elect us and everything will get better.

It's so simple, how could it go wrong?

The primary reason that I am so skeptical of anybody who says they have a "plan" for dealing with terrorism is that I am deeply convinced that nobody is even remotely close to having is clear understanding of the nature of the problem itself.

For the record, here is the Democratic plan as explained to me by Howard:

Democrats are going to reclaim American leadership with a tough, smart plan to transform failed policies in Iraq, the Middle East and around the world.

We will increase the size of Special Forces to destroy Osama Bin Laden and terrorist networks like al Qaeda. We will implement the bipartisan 9/11 Commission proposal to secure America's borders and ports and screen every container. And we will fully man, train, and equip our National Guard and our police, firefighters and other first responders.

That's it. Any questions?

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fox News delivers conservative hit job on former President Clinton

Fox News has posted the full transcript of their "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace" interview with former President Clinton in which he accuses them of doing a "nice little conservative hit job on me."

It is rather bizarre how a right-wing mythology has developed on a myth that "Clinton did nothing to stop al Qaeda."

As Clinton correctly points out, Richard Clarke really did try. He didn't succeed, and the new Bush administration undermined his efforts, but he did seriously try to get al Qaeda and Clinton fully supported his efforts.

-- Jack Krupansky

Has the overall terrorism threat grown since 9/11?

Obviously a lot of Americans are concerned with assuring that we don't have any more 9/11-class terrorist attacks here in the U.S. What I strongly disagree with is the illogic that morphed the definition of the 9/11 problem from terrorists attacking us here in the U.S. into all forms of "terrorism" that exist anywhere in the world. Blowing up a car or bus is not in the same category with flying a hijacked plane into a crowded building.

There is an article in the NY Times by Mark Mazzetti entitled "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat" which helps to promote the claim that "the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."

I read through the article carefully and there is nothing in it that suggests that we are at a greater risk of 9/11-class terrorist attacks here in the U.S. since the "liberation" of Iraq or even since 9/11 itself.

What I do think is true is that media coverage is far greater, politicians are exploiting 9/11 anxiety, and that maybe a number of disenfranchised groups are noticing those two factors and exploiting them for their own benefit.

I also think that the Neoconservative approach of radical democratization and preemptive war and their "go it alone" approach (so-called "coalition of the willing") and their single-minded focus on religion rather than social issues as a "cause" of terrorism are certainly contributing factors. Every single time a politician puts "Islamic" in their labeling of any aspect of terrorism, the problem only gets worse. Despite statements by the President, there are a lot of people who have been misled to believe that Islam-the-religion is the root cause of terrorism. That said, we had a lot of terrorism before the Neoconservatives took power, so clearly booting them out won't magically "solve" the problem.

The real problem is that politicians in the U.S. are still unable to grasp the concept that the U.S. has a special obligation to provide moral leadership to the rest of the world, but instead we usually end up exporting moral decay or evangelizing pseudo-moral positions based more on religion than thoughtful reflection and reality. And it is not merely about money and "Big Oil" and the political process. Rather, it is simply a lack of commitment and motivation on the part of politicians, and frankly, a lack of interest on the part of many of their constituents.

Yes, there is a huge amount of anti-U.S. sentiment out there in the world (and even here in the U.S.), but labeling it "terrorism" serves no useful purpose other than the enable the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the Pro-Israel Lobby with their misguided so-called "war on terror" which has virtually nothing to do with 9/11 and 9/11-class attacks.

If you are like most Americans and concerned primarily with what happens in our cities and neighborhoods here in the U.S., this report offers no evidence that we are less safe or that the terrorist threat against us here in the U.S. is "worse."

Yes, if you are committed to making the whole world a safe and more pleasant place, you should be concerned, but that is a separate issue from terrorism here in the U.S. Blending the two issues together into one bigger and less well-defined issue of "global terrorism" does nothing to begin addressing any of the underlying issues. If you really want to do something about this, start demanding that your elected leaders cease and desist from supporting the radical democratization agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby. And don't for even one moment think that simply bringing the Democrats back to power is going to solve the problems. After all, the problems only got worse when Clinton was President. Yes, he did a lot to try to address them, but even his effort were too little to turn the tide. He abandoned efforts to secure a peace between Israel and Palestine. And he misguidedly pursued the useless policy of "containment" against Iraq instead of again securing peace. Howard Dean and Ned Lamont don't have a clue either. Simply walking away from Iraq won't magically comfort the Islamic world.

We need to start peeling the "terrorism" onion and start getting more deeply into our underlying problems which are inciting such anti-U.S. sentiment.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Is bin Laden dead?

Whether Osama bin Laden is dead or not is completely immaterial. Even if he is dead, the current remnant "cells" of al Qaeda will continue as they currently operate, and the agenda for the Neconservative so-called "war on terror" remains intact. For example, "liberating" Iraq was in no way driven by or dependent on the current activities of bin Laden. The events of 9/11 certainly gave the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby a great excuse to shift their agenda into high gear, but even if every element of al Qaeda was completely eliminated, the agenda for the so-called "war on terror" would remain intact.

The simple fact that the administration has placed such a low priority on apprehending bin Laden is ample evidence that bin Laden and even al Qaeda are irrelevant to the so-called "war on terror."

Even if bin Laden were confirmed to have died, the insurgency in Iraq would continue, "fanatics" would continue to conspire to attack U.S. "interests", and the Neoconservatives would continue to rant about Iran and its "nuclear ambitions."

Maybe some day the American people will wake up and recognize that the so-called "war on terror" is at best only very tenuously connected to the events of 9/11.

Today, bin Laden is merely a symbol for the so-called "war on terror." Eliminate bin Laden and you do eliminate the symbol, but you do not eliminate the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby.

Eliminate bin Laden and it is still "full steam ahead" for the so-called "war on terror."

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

McCain and Hillary in 2008

I think it Is almost all but settled that Senators McCain and Clinton will be the two nominees for president duking it out in 2008, assuming they both decide to run.

Conservatives may not like McCain that much, but they'll back him since he really is the best shot the Republicans have of capturing enough of the Centrist and Independent votes to win.

Ditto for Senator Clinton, but coming from the liberal side of the Centrists and Independents.

Personally I could live with either as president. Nominally I vote Democrat and would vote for Hillary in a McCain/Clinton "battle", but if Hillary declines to run or gets a running mate with little or no Centrist credentials, I could switch to McCain.

I am at a loss to come up with two runner-up candidates who would be anywhere near as strong and competent as these two. Either would make a good solid president and restore some sense of dignity to the office.

That doesn't mean that I would be likely to agree with most of either candidate's policies, but at least I wouldn't feel that I had no "ownership" in their leadership or feel that more than half of the American voters felt that left out of the political process.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, September 18, 2006

What is an outrage against human dignity?

Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. Stunningly unbelievable.

I'm almost at a loss for words for describing how appalled I am when I hear that the President of the United States and all of his expert advisers and lawyers are unable to grasp the inherent meaning of a very short phrase:

Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal.

I'm sorry, but even the most common and ill-educated person on the street has an intuitive sense of what "human dignity" is and how it can be disregarded.

Actually, here is the text from Convention (III) Article 3:

    In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

    (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ' hors de combat ' by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
    To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

    (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

    (b) taking of hostages;

    (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

    (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

    (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

    An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
    The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
    The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

So, actually, the proper phrase is "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

It is so very telling that the Republican conservatives are so mindlessly clueless about such a basic concept that is core to what the rest of us call "civilization."

Maybe the administration is merely noting that the clause has a lack of specificity. Yes, that is true, but completely besides the point. It would be silly to insist on enumerating all possible forms of treatment which might be degrading or humiliating. What would be the point, other than to assert that if the CIA invents a brand new way to degrade or humiliate a person, then this "new" treatment wouldn't be precluded? Its point is to be a general catch-all for any form of inappropriate treatment that isn't explicitly covered by the prior clauses. Although it lacks specificity, there is nothing vague about it.

If President Bush needs guidance, he doesn't need legislation, but simply a person with "common sense": treatment is degrading or humiliating if a person with "common sense" would consider the treatment to be degrading or humiliating. I sincerely doubt that even one of the CIA "professionals" has any difficulty recognizing what treatment is degrading and humiliating, and what is not. To claim otherwise is essentially to tell a lie.

In short, the phrase means that a person's civil rights should be respected. Alas, that is also a concept about which the Republican conservatives are equally clueless.

They understand only one basic concept: power and how to gain it, keep it, and use it to protect their own interests at the expense of those they don't consider to be their "own people."

There is another name for it: The ends justify the means.

The bottom line is that the administration seeks to treat prisoners in an inhumane manner and knows full well that such treatment is not permissible under the Geneva Conventions. They do seek to use torture, and are willing to torture the English language, national and international law, and the U.S. Constitution to legalize it in spirit if not by name.

Is torture "an outrage against human dignity"? Yes. End of story.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, September 17, 2006

How real is the dissension within the Republican party over detention and interrogation by the CIA?

Some people may be mistakenly presuming that the disagreement that surfaced last week over the detention and interrogation policies of the CIA between the Bush administration and some senior U.S. senators means as much as the media makes it sound like. Even if the Senate does pass its own provisions that are at odds with the administration and the House legislation, there is still this thing called the "conference committee", where differences "get worked out". The dissension we saw last week was in public. Unfortunately, "conference" is mostly in private and involves a lot of "horse trading." The bad news is that senators may water down their views and get "bought off" with all manner of compromises, even on matters unrelated to the matters at hand. The senators can play it both ways and posture in public but nod and wink in private.

Even if provisions are passed that are distinctly unpalatable to the administration, we could easily lapse into a situation where the law is promised publicly, but enforcement of provisions could by done with a lot of nodding and winking and otherwise turning a blind eye.

We can hope that the rebellious senators will stand their ground and prevail against the administration and the House, but I wouldn't bet on it, yet.

Last week we saw only one act of the play, or one cattle in the war. The rest of the play/war has yet to play out.

To answer my question: How real is the dissension within the Republican party over detention and interrogation by the CIA? My answer: The dissension is sincere, but more apparent than real, and subject to "moderation" (watering down) once the conference committee gets down to business.

-- Jack Krupansky

Is Iran really relevant to combatting the forces that resulted in the 9/11 attacks?

For the average American, the so-called "war on terror" is supposed to be focused on countering the forces that had resulted in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Besides the massive efforts in Iraq, the other major effort of the so-called "war on terror" is putting pressure on Iran. Nobody has suggested that Iran was a factor in 9/11, but somehow they were pulled into the "axis of evil" that became the cornerstone of the so-called "war on terror."

Now, we read in an article in the NY Times by Steven Weisman entitled "U.S. Asks Finance Chiefs to Limit Iran’s Access to Banks" that the U.S. is pressuring "top finance officials of the world’s leading industrial nations" to limit the business they do with Iran in response to a belief that so-called "Iranian front companies" have been "identified by American intelligence agencies as funneling money to terrororist groups."

Is there some significant and compelling evidence that Iran is "funneling" money to bin Laden and al Qaeda? Nope. This is all about alleged links between Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Yes, this may impact the security of Israel, but appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the security of the U.S. relative to threats from bin Laden and al Qaeda.

If President Bush is truly and deeply committed to rooting out the forces that caused 9/11 and continue to threaten us here in America, why are his people focusing so much attention on Iran?

To answer my question: Is Iran really relevant to combatting the forces that resulted in the 9/11 attacks? My answer is: No. Even if Iran might be funding Hezbollah, and even if Hezbollah was completed eliminated, there would be no net impact on the forces that resulted in the attacks of 9/11.

-- Jack Krupansky

What the Pope actually said versus what the media reported

There has been an intense negative reaction to some rather innocuous words from Pope Benedict. Much of the blame for the furor resides with the media for quoting the Pope out of context. It was as if the media intentionally sought to portray the Popes words in as negative light as possible, as if they were trying to create a scandal where none existed. As if the media had not a clue of the power of isolated "sound bites" taken out of context. As if. Or maybe the reality.

Here's an excerpt from the NY Times coverage from Wednesday, September 13, 2006 by Ian Fisher:

And he used language open to interpretations that could inflame Muslims, at a time of high tension among religions and three months before he makes a trip to Turkey.

He began his speech, which ran over half an hour, by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, in a conversation with a "learned Persian" on Christianity and Islam "and the truth of both."

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread the sword by the faith he preached," the pope quoted the emperor, in a speech to 1,500 students and faculty.

He went on to say that violent conversion to Islam was contrary to reason and thus "contrary to God's nature."

But the section on Islam made up just three paragraphs of the speech, and he devoted the rest to a long examination of how Western science and philosophy had divorced themselves from faith -- leading to the secularization of European society that is at the heart of Benedict's worries.

[My emphasis]

Not until Friday, September 15, 2006 did the NY Times even note a transcription error:

Because of a transcription error, an article on Wednesday about a speech by Pope Benedict XVI in Germany, in which he addressed the concept of Muslim holy war, rendered incorrectly a phrase from a quotation by a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus. The correct quotation reads, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." not "to spread the sword by the faith he preached."

It wasn't clear who made the transcription error, or if maybe it was a translation error.

The corrected paragraph would read:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached," the pope quoted the emperor, in a speech to 1,500 students and faculty.

The "official" text (in English) from the Vatican web site has the following paragraph:

In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (F×< 8`(T) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

[My emphasis]

Note that the gibberish "*4V8,>4H" is the Greek διάλεξις in the Italian translation of the Pope's lecture. And "F×< 8`(T" is the Greek "σὺν λόγω." Alas, the Vatican has too much "faith" in their HTML editing tools.

The Pope's "speech" was in fact an academic lecture, entitled "Faith, Reason and the University - Memories and Reflections."

Clearly, the Pope was trying to make a point about faith and reason in the context of a particular audience and not intending to specifically address the topic of violent promotion of Islam. By taking one quote out of context, the media created a furor where not would have otherwise existed.

That said, the Pope did err by not realizing that this is precisely what the media would do.

I believe that the Pope also erred by offering only what I call a "fake" apology. He apologized simply for the fact that someone else was offended, but chose not to apologize for what he actually said that caused offense.

The fact that no one in the media has apologized for "soundbiting" in a way that misrepresents both meaning and intentions, is truly appalling, but not so surprising.

The problem is that the Pope used a quote for one purpose and the media used it for another. One could argue that the media are 100% at fault for misusing the quote and seeming to imply that the Pope believed that Islam encourages spreading faith through the sword.

The Pope should recast his argument with a differnt quote that did not use the language of violence. He should also point out that the quoted emperor was "baiting" his Persian guest with a reference to violence, when in fact the discussion was really about faith that was not based on "the Greek vision" of reason.

I would assess blame at 15% for the Pope, and 85% for the media.

-- Jack Krupansky

9/11 beginning to rapidly recede into history

Now that we have managed to survive the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I believe that the events of 9/11 will now rapidly recede out of the public eye as a "current event" into more of a historical perspective. Not overnight, but with each passing month the "news" value of 9/11 will fade incrementally.

The so-called "war on terror" will remain a "current event" until their is a change of administration that brings more moderate politicians into power. There is a fair chance that this transition will occur after the 2008 election, but it could well take yet another "four more years" as well. In any case, the "power" of the imagery of 9/11 and the so-called "war on terror" is on a clear path downwards.

Regardless of when "the war" does start fading more dramatically from "the news cycle", public support for this so-called "war" is already fading rapidly. In fact, a majority already seems to "support" the "war" about as enthusiastically as they support the Internal Revenue Service -- a "necessary evil", but not something that they would vote for if they had the chance.

The only thing that really keeps the conservative Republicans in power is that the Democrats simply aren't fielding enough credible centrist candidates.

New York City seems on the cusp of finally getting a handle on redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, which would help to close a huge "open wound" that keeps 9/11 in the public eye. In fact, several of the surrounding buildings (notably, the World Financial Center and  the Verizon building) have already been restored to "like new" condition and one of the collapsed building (WTC 7) has already been rebuilt from the ground up and already partially occupied. There is still one damaged building that remains to be torn down (Deutsche Bank building across the street from the south side of the site). Subway train service has been restored, including the PATH train from New Jersey with tracks and a station in the "pit" of the trade center site itself. There have even been two movies that essentially "mark" the end of one phase of the mourning. There are still some lingering law suites to play out., but every month brings yet another increment of closure.

It was also very telling that Homeland Security did not automatically raise the threat advisory level as on past anniversaries.

The current administration and Congress will continue to furiously bang the drum for their so-called "war on terror", maybe even more furiously as they worry about the 2006 and 2008 elections, but the American public will just as furiously being turning down their own volume controls. The media will continue to exploit fear and anxiety for a while longer, but it won't be long before they realize that intensive coverage of 9/11 and the so-called "war on terror" will increasingly be a losing proposition in terms of gaining and keeping audiences.

Sure, there will be plenty of terroist "scares" and maybe even a few actual attacks here in the U.S. in the coming years, but there always have been. The difference is whether we continue to layer this veneer of a "war" and a climate of fear on top of the always-present reality that the world always was and always will be a dangerous place to live.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, September 11, 2006

How 9/11 changed us

MSNBC solicited reader comments about how 9/11 changed our lives. I saw the original query, but decided to post my own thoughts on this blog instead. Nonetheless, it is interesting to read how a variety of readers responded to the MSNBC query. Or start here.

Of course the events affected different people in very personal ways. My problem is that I am simply horrified that even the simplest of human feelings were allowed to be transcended and amplified into this massive so-called "War on Terror" which is wholly out of proportion to the events of 9/11. In Iraq alone we have lost almost as many American lives as in the attacks on the World Trader Center, with many, many more horribly mutilated for life, let alone the emotional scarring. And that is not even counting the far higher losses in civilian life in Iraq. And the "battle" isn't even close to being complete. As senseless as acts of terror are, this misguided "war" is equally senseless. If the goal were to reduce human misery and loss of life, the "war" has failed miserably.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Notes from September 11, 2001

Here are my thoughts that I wrote and published on one of my web sites late in the evening of September 11, 2001. My apologies for the spelling errors. I may post some of my other "diary" entries, but they are all already online at that web address and have been for close to five years now.


I'm here down in Washington, DC now. It's calm in a strange kind of way. Everybody talking about the details of the crashes, but there weren't that many hurt at the Pentagon compared to NYC. People get very philosophical about what should be done. Nobody has a clear answer. Every "solution" has drawbacks. Some say this is definitely Bin Laden's work. Others say that Bin Laden is doing this (as well as previous terrorist acts) in conspiracy with Iraq. And then there's the issue of Afghanistan's "harboring" of Bin Laden. People in Washington are focused on this kind of stuff compared to the sheer damage and loss of life in New York.

I was on the internet early but signed off right at 8:45, so I just missed the news. About 9:15 I left my apartment when is six blocks north of the White House and was on my way to a Senate hearing when I saw the Pentagon smoke just a few minutes before 10 am when I was near Union Station, but I didn't hear any explosion so I figured it must be a large fire and not a bomb. Other than that smoke, I saw no signs of anything wrong.

A lot of people were leaving the Senate office buildings, but they hadn't started a formal evacuation yet, as of 10:00 am. I asked the guard at the building just after 10 am and he shrugged his shoulders and said they weren't evactuating and people were just leaving by their own choice. I went to the hearing (Senate Banking hearing on the failure of the Superior Bank in Illinois held in the Dirksen office building), which was packed, and it started about 10:05. Senater Sarbanes said he wasn't goto to let "them" shut down his hearing. The hearing went for about 15 minutes before the guard informed us that we had to evacuate.

Some of us sitting near the windows had heard a distant boom around 10:11 am. I ran into somebody later who said it was a sonic boom from a jet fighter. I saw one fighter once and could hear them on occasion, but could not see them. The sky was fairly clear with just a few clouds. Lots of helicopters coming and going to the Pentagon.

I listened to some reporters interviewing Senators out in the park across the street. But the reporters couldn't call in their quotes because their cell phones wouldn't work due to too many people using their phones. I stayed there a little while. Some people had their car radios on so we could listen to the news. I actually didn't know what had happened until after the hearing started. I just knew that "something" had happened over near the river. One of the Senators being interviewed has Senator Levin who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and who will be involved at the center of the investigation of what happened and whatever response occurs.

Then I and then walked down to the river where we could see the smoke still billowing from the Pentagon. They had all the monuments roped off, but I was able to walk across the bridge and could see the Pentagon from fairly close. Close enough to smell the smoke. They weren't really stopping people from moving around. A while later I got close enough to the far side to see where the damage was. The gash in the side of the building was not that big, at least looking at it from a very oblique angle, but we could not see straight in at the bulk of the damage. They were still fighting the fire late in the day. The building is solid concrete, but the roof is wood and tar and just very difficult to put out. Eventually we could see workers atop the roof right at the gash.

I was able to talk to some people who were in the Pentagon at the time. On woman was watching the news of the NY crash and one of her co-workers said "Well, at least they didn't hit the Pentagon" and then ten minutes later they did. They evacuated and the police kept moving them further from the building. At one point the police cars roared up with their PA system warning that "A hijacked plane is incoming". Whether that was the Pittsburgh plane or just a too-late warning about the first plane wasn't clear. At that point people ran and tried to get behind a stone wall (the entrance to the LBJ Memorial Grove). People calmed down and walked over the Crystal City, not more than a mile away. Most did not come back and the parking lot was half full even at the end of the day. The woman I talked to had come back for her car and was very calm about the whole thing.

Just about everybody I ran into was fairly calm about the whole thing. But the damage in DC is far less than in NY. At dinner I was talking to a guy from NY who lives not far from the Trade Center whose wife had gone out for coffee with a friend and looked up just in time to see the collapse. Her friend's husband worked in the Trade Center. This guy knows somebody who worked on the 40th floor and made it out, so not everyone died. That's so much more different than DC where maybe only 100 or less (besides the plane passengers) died. Nobody has the numbers for sure yet.

I heard one police officer say that they had too many volunteers and had sent a lot of them home. There was a virtual parking lot full of emergency vehicles of every sort at the Pentagon. But they only had three water canons going.

I was over at the Pentagon until 7:30 pm. I could hear that the Metro train was running again near the Pentagon. Some highways near the Pentagon were closed, but not all. There were a moderate number of cars on the road. I walked along the river and crossed over to the Lincoln Memorial. All the memorials were completely lit, but roped off. I had to detour around the White House area since a whole bunch of blocks were closed.

Virtually all restaurants were closed, except those in hotels and they required that you be a guest. But I got into the Marriott Courtyard across the street from my apartment and had dinner. I just got back to my apartment around 10:30 and still had not seen any TV news (I don't have a TV either). Luckily the internet is working fine right now. I still haven't seen any pictures of the World Trade Center, but I know from personal experience what the Pentagon looked like. One officer at the Pentagon checkpoint said he had been at the site earlier and he saw no large pieces lying around, but I think they're all inside the building.

People are just waiting for the President to decide what he's going to do. Downtown DC will probably be back to work within a couple days since there's no damage over here. Ironically, the section of the Pentagon which was hit was the part that was just renovated. But that meant that not everyone had moved back into their offices and many people were away at meetings.

There's a state of emergency of some sort here in DC, but no curfew or restrictions other than the fact that most people just went home, so most businesses other than hotels are closed. The police stationed throughout the city are all pretty casual about everything.

The Metro subway train was closed early on, but eventually opened except for the lines that ran past the Pentagon. But I think everything was eventually open.

There was a lot of confusion with traffic because they told everybody to "go home" all at once. That was a mistake. They should have told people to take their time and enjoy the weather in the park areas and the malls. I wouldn't have wanted to be in a car driving past some government building that might be attacked.

Strangely, it didn't feel uncomfortable in the Senate office building. In fact, when they told us to evacuate, people just sat there for a couple of minutes, even through they all knew what had happened. That's the kind of people you get in Washington -- nobody wanted to give up their seat in a packed hearing! In fact, the chair I took was actually the CSPAN cameraman's chair. I figured I'd sit there until he got back, back he never came back. The camera was on auto-pilot.

That's the way it was on Tuesday. Tomorrow's a different story.

-- Jack Krupansky

The other 9/11 hijackers: the media

As devastating as the terrorist attacks were on 9/11, we should not forget or forgive the other hijackers of American life on that day and the days and weeks and months and years that followed: the media with their shameless exploitation of 9/11 for commercial advantage.

The media could have been doing a much better job of explaining the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby and how the emotions of 9/11 were quite literally hijacked and shaped to support the so-called "War on Terror" that has had little to do with the actual events of 9/11 or future actions by al Qaeda.

Instead, the media acted as shameless cheerleaders for the so-called "War on Terror".

Sure, the media occasionally gets up in arms about controversial tactics, but never is the overall "war" agenda deeply probed.

-- Jack Krupansky

How has your life been changed by 9/11?

Although my life is substantially different than it was on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, most of that has to do with career, economic, and financial considerations and very little, if anything at all, to do with the events of that day. In fact, if not for financial considerations, my life might be completely unchanged.

At the time, I was still living off the excess "wealth" I had accumulated during the tech "boom/bubble", fully expecting that if and when my money did run out, I would easily be able to continue to get more than enough software development consulting work to keep my bank account healthy. I used to tell people that I was "semi-retired", recognizing that soon enough I might need to return to work. I was very right about needing to return to work, albeit sooner than I expected, but very wrong about how easy it might be to find work, any work. But I don't blame 9/11 for either.

That being my situation, my first reaction to the attacks was to mentally visualize my "wealth" going up with the smoke of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Whether the events of that day actually affected my financial and career situation can be debated, but my presumption is that my situation was problematic regardless of what happened on 9/11.

At the time, I had an apartment in New York City, diagonally across the street from the UN and a second apartment in Washington, D.C., six blocks north of the White House. But for my financial situation, I'd still be there today.

I was already spending a fair amount of my time attending congressional hearings and discussions at DC think tanks on many topics, including foreign policy, security, and emerging threats. There was a lot of interesting stuff going on even before 9/11. I had been to any number of hearings and discussions about terrorism, emerging threats, biological and chemical weapons, Iraq, Iran, missile threats, nuclear proliferation, etc. All of this stuff was already in my life before 9/11, so the increased focus on some of these topics after 9/11 wasn't really much of a change for me.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 12, 2001 I was doing precisely what I had planned to do before the 9/11 attacks, which was attending a Senate hearing on protecting our critical infrastructure, which was so very timely given the attacks the day before, but which had been scheduled before 9/11. As chaotic as much of America was on the days immediately after 9/11, at least in my one little corner of Washington, it was business as usual.

Sure, there were plenty of security measures in place, especially around the White House, and National Airport was closed, and Lower Manhattan was a true disaster zone, but for me, life went on, with little change, other than anxiety about the stock market.

The events of 9/11 didn't even have much of an impact on my schedule or travel plans. My typical schedule was to spend a couple of weeks (ten days to three weeks) in DC, take the train to NYC to spend a couple of weeks there, and then back again. Without even thinking about it, I kept to that same schedule. That kept me in DC for about 10 days after 9/11 before I took the train to NYC.

My financial situation was of couple totally up in the air, but I managed to survive another two years before I hit the wall financially. I suppose I could blame my financial and work problems on 9/11, but I don't believe 9/11 was a significant factor.

On a positive note, being in both DC and NYC at that time gave me a better perspective on the reaction of our national government to the events of 9/11. Most people had to rely of TV and newspapers or the Internet, but I was right there and even got to talk with some of the participants, advisors, analysts, consultants, and the like. I wouldn't trade that experience for all the money in the world. And so many Americans have none of that background and struggle to make due with the bizarre TV and newspaper and magazine and Internet coverage, which is fraught with bias, misinformation, emotion-manipulating music and graphics, and overall a simple lack of reality.

I am sure that some of my positions on foreign policy have evolved over they past five years, but I do feel that a fair amount of my beliefs were formed in the years before 9/11 as I had spent much more of my time digging into what makes Washington tick.

I visited the Pentagon and World Trade Center areas many times in the months and even years after the attacks. It was comforting to see that real people were making real progress in recovering our infrastructure, despite all the negativity in the media. Never, not even once for a moment did I feel that my safety was at risk of another attack.

I was sitting in a Senate Office Building hearing room (Dirksen) shortly after 10:00 a.m. on 9/11 as the World Trade Center towers were collapsing and as the Pentagon was burning in the distance, but even then and ever since then I have not felt the need to fear another attack. Sure, maybe there will be another 9/11-class terrorist attack, but so many of us are far more likely to be harmed by accidents, drunk drivers, storms, engineering fiascos, bad judgment, etc. than to be harmed by a terrorist attack.

Sure, I still have to cope with so many extra security measures and we have the distraction of a "war" that has virtually nothing to do with the events of 9/11, but life does go on.

I can't and don't speak for any other American, but I can confidently say that 9/11 hasn't significantly changed my life. I gather that many people feel that it has changed their lives in a very deep and significant sense. I suspect that the change is more due to the simple fact that so many people didn't realize how dangerous a place the world was before the morning of 9/11.

I recognize that people who were in the Pentagon or Lower Manhattan will have every reason to feel directly impacted by a "brush with death", but I do not think it is reasonable to push all of that angst onto the backs of all of the rest of America (and the world) who deserve the right to live normal lives even if a few thousand people did suffer significantly in the attacks.

I vigorously disagree with those who promoted and continue to promote the idea that 9/11 was a "marker date", the date when "everything changed." Yes, if you or a family member, neighbor, friend, or colleague did have that "brush with death", 9/11 would likely be a life-changing event, but please stop trying to change the lives of others to be in sync with your own trauma.

It is time for all of us to move on. Bad things do happen in life to all of us, but after a period of mourning and coping, you simply have to pull yourself together and quite literally move on.

There actually is one aspect of my life that has been changed by 9/11: After seeing how unashamedly the media has exploited the events of 9/11 and the so-called "War on Terror" to their own financial advantage, I now have virtually no faith that the media can be expected to act in the best interests of citizens. So much of what gets passed as "news" and "analysis" is so clearly biased and so clearly aimed at manipulating opinions and emotions to the commercial advantage of these media "empires".

I personally can live without faith in "Big Media" since I do know how to read between the lines and filter the occasional fact from all of the pumped-up "story" and "docudrama", but I do worry about all of "the little people" who don't have better sources of information than network news, daily newspapers, and all of the other manipulative media. Maybe that is one way my life is changed: I wish there was something I could do for these people.

-- Jack Krupansky

Should all carry-on luggage be banned?

An editorial in the NY Times entitled "A Ban on Carry-On Luggage" and suggests that "For now, the surest way to keep dangerous materials out of the cabin is to keep virtually all materials out of the cabin." Maybe, or maybe not, and is it really worth the effort and hassle and loss of peace of mind.

Materials might also be implanted or ingested and I can't imagine a ban on shoes, belts, padded bras, hairpieces/wigs, stuffed animals and dolls, etc.

Let us also keep in mind a basic concept of security measures: For every measure there is a countermeasure, and for every countermeasure there is a counter-countermeasure, and so on ad infinitum. If you set zero risk as your required goal, you will never get there and will always have failed at your goal.

I prefer the concept from the nuclear industry called ALARA: As Low As Reasonably Achievable. The emphasis is twofold: continuously reviewing processes and technologies to upgrade them as developments unfold, but only as the upgraded technologies and processes would be reasonable.

My basic response is that we should always avoid extreme measures, and The Times seems committed to the wrong-headed concept of minimizing risk at all costs, but I would argue that we employ measures that impose no more than reasonable costs, and accept the simple fact that life is always full of risks, even if we do not acknowledge them every day. So, let's limit air travel security to only reasonable measures, and accept that just like with plane crashes and accidents, sometimes things happen. Sure, we seek to minimize dangers, but let us not sign up for cures that are fare worse than the disease.

That said, I would certainly love to see a lot less carry-on luggage. I myself am more of a minimalist, with everything in my small backpack.

How far can you go? Well, I attended some of the 9/11 Commission hearings in Washington, D.C., and at one hearing, on Tuesday, January 27, 2004, commissioner Bob Kerrey, former U.S. Senator  from Nebraska, also a former Navy SEAL, noted in discussion with an aviation security executive that anyone with special ops training could walk on a plane naked and still accomplish their mission. Here's an abbreviated excerpt from the official transcript of the 9/11 Commission of that exchange between Kerrey and Edmund Soliday, a former security executive for United Airlines:

MR. SOLIDAY: ... Senator Kerrey, in honesty with you, you are a trained spec ops person. You know as well as I, sir, that these people could have gotten on that airplane stark naked and done what they did.

MR. KERREY: Yes, they could have.

MR. SOLIDAY: So all of this discussion, you and I both know if we were taking knives away, they would have planned the spec op around those knives not being there.

MR. KERREY: ... These 19 guys who knocked us over just as easy as could be, they exploited every visible weakness. And you're exactly right, once they were on that plane their chances of failure were practically zero. ... And by the way, I'm a customer, and when this commission finishes this work today, I'm taking the train back to New York and no small measure because I find the security procedures not only to be a nuisance, but I think they're largely ineffective.

I mean, you're exactly right, buck naked I sit on that plane and I say, well, I hope they've got this thing figured out because -- well, first of all, they'd never let me on, that would really be obnoxious, let me on buck naked, but you -- yeah, you're not anxious to see that. I mean, I hope that you'll help us by being as honest as you possibly can and as frank and as detailed as you possibly can about what we aren't doing that we ought to be doing to prevent this in the future.

Armored cockpit doors -- plus rules requiring that they never be permitted to be opened during flight -- would prevent the suicide attacks that were employed on 9/11.

Smuggling bombs or bomb-making materials into the main cabin or in checked baggage is certainly a possibility, but the number of times it has been successfully employed is so small as to suggest that severe or extreme countermeasures are wholly unwarranted. Yes, let us take measures, but only those that are reasonable and reasonably unobtrusive. Sure, "experts" (and politicians and critics) can make all manner of claims about potential effects, but rarely do these "experts" inform us of the very real side effects of taking extreme measures.

To answer the question: Should all carry-on luggage be banned? My answer: No.

-- Jack Krupansky

Can radical democratization work?

The lynchpin of the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby seems to be the concept of forcing "failed nations" or "rogue states" to become "democratic", so-called radical democratization. That is what we are trying to do in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the noises being made about Iran. But, can this strategy work? I think not, at least not in a sustainable manner.

I am an ardent fan of democracy, but my belief is that an entire people -- not just a handful of "leaders" -- must really and deeply and passionately want democracy before it has even a hope of happening in a sustainable manner. And, that may be the problem in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and maybe Iran as well.

Of course, all of this discussion about radical democratization begs the question of the definition of democracy itself. After all, Iran does have elections, the Palestinian Authority had elections, and Lebanon had elections. All sorts of criticisms can be made concerning those elections, but criticisms can be made of elections here in the U.S. as well. My point is that these criticisms are valid and simply highlight the fact that merely being labeled a "democracy" or "democratic" does not imply a realization of all of the foreign policy benefits that Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby are ascribing to "democracy". We do in fact have democracy in Iraq, but it is far from a pretty site.

By all (reasonable) means, let us encourage the growth of democracy, especially in countries where governance is dysfunctional or a danger to local, regional, or world peace, but let us be sure to focus on reasonable processes for developing democracies and stop fooling ourselves into believing that we can impose democracy of our own design on any other people -- and have it stick for very long.

I suspect that Iraq may well continue to limp and stumble towards a palatable form of democracy, eventually, but it may not be a form of democracy that "we" would find attractive from our own foreign policy perspective. For example, what if Iraq decides to make peace and ally with Syria and Iran, where will that leave the U.S. (and Israel) for all of our effort?

By all means, let us "aid and abet" democracy, but let us make sure to shy away from trying to force it to happen in any place where it may not have happened naturally in due course. That is not to say that we must forego all force, but simply to stay away from imposing our will on another people.

I believe that democracy can and does happen naturally. That is not to say that it happens easily or with little effort and without great sacrifice, but rather is to say that the people make it happen when they feel ready to make it happen. That is the only recipe, indeed the requirement, for developing a sustainable democracy.

I fully expect that one day China will evolve into something much closer to what we call democracy. They have a long way to go, but they have already come a great distance already.

I also believe that capitalism is a key requirement for fostering the conditions in which democracy can be birthed and survive. It is only when many individuals feel that they have a sense of financial independence that they can have the luxury of reaching out and grabbing opportunities to form truly democratic institutions. That in fact is the process that is underway in China, as we speak.

And if we want Iran to evolve towards more of a democracy, encouraging capitalism and free trade are key tools to pushing that process along. Sanctions are the last thing we should be considering if we want Iran to move towards a more open and less-combative form of democracy. If anything, the U.S. should drop the bulk of its existing sanctions.

To answer the question: Can radical democratization work? My answer is No, at least not in a sustainable form.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Time to move on from 9/11

Maybe the best way to memorialize the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 is simply to note the event with a simple ceremony but commit ourselves to moving on. Enough is enough already. This idea of a never-ending, gut-wrenching "War on Terror" that has almost nothing to do with the events of 9/11 is truly absurd.

Hey, we gave it our best shot, didn't we? Well, okay, we didn't give it our best shot and we fumbled mightily, but maybe that was as good as we could have expected to do given the void in moral and practical leadership at the national level.

There is absolutely no good reason to continue to carry on a "war" in the name of the events of five years ago. Yes, we should continue a significant level of counter-terrorism and we should remain moderately vigilant, but there is no useful purpose served by encouraging American citizens to live in such a climate of fear.

In truth, all of our heavy, overwrought rhetoric serves only to embolden and encourage terrorists to continue their "fight" with even more resolve.

It would be far better for President Bush to go on TV on Monday and announce "Mission Accomplished" and inform the terrorists that terrorism is once again merely a law enforcement activity. Sure, the CIA, Coast Guard, FBI, et al will continue counter-terrorism activities, but the rest of us can and should get back to a normal life. That won't fit into the warmongering agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby, but... screw them.

As far as air travel. Just hire 75,000 air marshalls (or use National Guard or active members of the armed services) and put five air marshals on every plane, maybe two uniformed and three plainclothes, until things settle down. Sure, occasionally some terrorists will succeed, but that's not such a bad price to pay for having our lives, our country, and our peace of mind back from the so-called "War on Terror". The "war" itself is doing more to terrorize innocent civilians (and service members as well) than actual terrorist attacks.

And as far as our foreign policy, we as a nation need to find the courage to tell the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby to take a hike.

-- Jack Krupansky

The so-called war on terror - the real hijackers of 9/11

My first thought when I think about 9/11 is how appalled I was at how quickly the American people and their duly elected representative "leaders" signed up for and jumped on the bandwagon for the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby. I fully expected an all-out effort against the perpetraters of the 9/11 attacks and that the U.S. would proceed to focus intense resources on tracking down each and every member of al Qaeda and its supporters, especially Osama bin Laden. But, that is not what happened. Bin Laden is still at large, and we are in Iraq.

Instead, the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby hijacked American foreign policy and used it to pursue their grand "vision" of democratizing any country which posed a perceived security threat to the security of Israel.

If the so-called "War on Terror" or "Global War on Terror" or "War on Global Terror" or "War on Terrorism with a Global Reach" were really about rooting out the cause of the 9/11 attacks, our prime focus would be going after bin Laden, and we are led to beleive that he is hiding out in Pakistan, not Iraq.

When one looks at the overall picture of the administration's conduct of the so-called "War on Terror", the first phrase that immediately comes to mind is "What's wrong with this picture?" If the 9/11 attacks were truly the triggering event, why are we in Iraq and making noises about going after Iran?

Going after Iraq was very high on the agenda of the Neoconservatives and the Pro-Israel Lobby long before 9/11. The neocons would have gone after Iraq eventually, but 9/11 gave them the rally-around-the-flag excuse that they needed.

I was spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C. from 1998 through 2003, and I had observed first-hand the intense lobbying for going after Iraq. The standard line was "We need to finish what [former] President Bush failed to complete in the [first] Gulf War." People would talk about how big a mistake it had been that we hadn't "gone to Baghdad" when we had a chance. The clock was ticking. It was only a matter of time.

Iraq was clearly in the gunsights of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby on September 10, 2001. The events of the following day were a perverse combination of an unwelcome distraction from "the main show" and a convenient excuse to accelerate their primary agenda which had nothing to do with a Qaeda.

Hey, they even had me half-convinced. I recall talking to a Dutch reporter near The Mall in front of the Capital (actually, The Mall is technically behind the Capital and the Capital faces away from The Mall) at around 11:00 a.m. on 9/11 and saying that I assumed that Iraq was behind the attacks. At the time, I was surprised at how quickly al Qaeda was fingered as the main culprit. I had heard no "official" news at that time and certainly was unaware that a month earlier the administration had a briefing paper (PDB or Presidential Daily Briefing) with the title "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" and that the adminstration had in fact ramped up couter-terrorism efforts. By the next day or week, everybody was talking about bin Laden, and only the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby were mumbling about continuing to plan for going after Iraq.

I think the term "Axis of Evil" is perfectly reasonable to describe al Qaeda and its supporters, but I was surprised and initially baffled when President Bush spoke of the axis as being comprised of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. On further reflection it was obvious that the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby were very anxious to get their bandwagon rolling before it could get sidetracked in a more focused "War on al Qaeda."

And when the administration tossed Hamas and Hezbollah under the same umbrella with al Qaeda in the so-called "War on Terror", it was abundantly clear that the agenda was the security of Israel and not the forms of terrorism that resulted in the domestic attacks of 9/11 in New York and Washington.

To end on a positive note, our policy in response to 9/11 should have had (and still should have) precisely two elements:

  1. Quitely and stealthily going after the leadership and support organization of al Qaeda, including surgical strikes and covert operations. A noisy campaign seems only to inflame and otherwise rouse the passion of terrorists and their supporters. Better to listen quietly in the shadows and encourage them to be less stealthy and suspicious in their own operations so that we can more easily catch them. Some of these qualities were in play for the recent raids in Britain, but unfortunately too big a deal was made in the press and media. My view is that we should have a strict ban on press coverage of counter-terrorism efforts whenever there is a perceived threat level such as where we are now. We are not trying to train terrosits to avoid the mistakes of their past. If anything, we would like terrorists and would-be terrorists to continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Publicizing their mistakes in The New York Times is an incrediblly stupid thing to do. We are unwittingly handing them a how-to guide on a silver platter. But the Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby do not care since they would like al Qaeda to be in the limelight as long as a "cover" as long as radical democratization and pursuing the security of Israel is the real agenda.
  2. Making a determined diplomatic, cultural, educational, service-oriented approach to understanding and addressing what is driving so many people to participate, encourage, assist, and otherwise support the flow of people into the arms of al Qaeda and al Qaeda-like organizations.

The Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby would have us believe that Iran is behind it all, but their reference to Iran as "The Terror Masters" just doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Iran may indeed be capitalizing on the work of terrorist groups, but they are hardly the root cause of the terrorist movement.

I personally do not subscribe to any of the conspiracy theories regarding the events of 9/11, but the agenda for the so-called "war on terror" and its almost non-existent connection to 9/11 is another story entirely.

The biggest threat to peace in this world is not terrorism (al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, et al), but the distinct lack of moral leadership by the United States of America. And, I think the Democrats are as much to blame as the nominally evil-er Neoconservatives and the rest of the Pro-Israel Lobby.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, September 08, 2006

Remembering memories of 9/11

Since Monday, September 11, 2006 will be the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is time to start collecting and recollecting memories of that day, like where I was, what I was doing, how it felt at the time, what seemed to be going on at the time, and how it all looks in hindsight. I don't know how much I'll actually pull together, but at least I'll try to post something. Meanwhile you can read some thoughts that I wrote on my web site at the time, from September 11, 2001 into October, mostly while I was in Washington, D.C., but also when I back up in New York City. I had apartments in both cities at the time.

Here's a very eerie photo of the Palm trees inside the Wintergarden atrium of the World Financial Center just across the street from where the north tower of the World Trade Center had stood.

The trees survived the collapse of the towers, but somebody I met down at the trade center site a few weeks later told me they saw them being cut down. They put a large scaffolding inside the atrium to keep the undamaged half from collapsing and over the next two years they rebuilt the damaged half and then planted new trees that look just like the old ones. The river-side of the atrium was mostly undamaged, as I could see as I took the New York Waterways ferry boat from the east side of lower Manhattan over to Hoboken, New Jersey and back eleven days after 9/11.

Just a few weeks earlier I had stood not more than 50 feet behind where the photographer was probably standing and looked up at the north tower through the atrium glass.

I used to talk around lower Manhatan on Saturdays and stop in the atrium to rest for a few minutes in the afternoon before heading back to my apartment.

The atrium is now completely restored, "as good as new", but feels a bit lifeless even though physically it is every bit as good as new.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, September 04, 2006

Are we less safe than on or before September 11, 2001?

I see a quote by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in an article in the NY Times by Robin Toner and Kate Zernike entitled "G.O.P. Seen to Be in Peril of Losing House" in which he suggests that we are not safer from terrorism:

People are not happy with how George Bush conducted the war in Iraq, and they know we’re not safer.

This is a popular conception, or what I would call a myth, as to how to quantify or qualify our "safety" relative to terrorism.

First, I never saw any direct connection between Iraq and "global terrorism" or the events of September 11, 2001 in particular.

Second, I have never seen any connection between what has transpired in Iraq since 2003 and our "safety" here in America.

When discussing terrorism as it relates to to Americans here in America or in Asia or South America or Africa or Europe, Iraq simply is not a key driver. Iraq does affect security in the Middle East and does certainly affect the lives of U.S. forces in the area, but security in the Middle East was always problematic even before 2003.

Put simply, the situation in Iraq is a red herring with respect to the safety of Americans with respect to acts of terrorism.

I dispute the assertion that we are less safe than since September 11, 2001. Overall, I would say that we are somewhat safer since that day, if for no other reason than that security personnel are somewhat more alert and diligent.

Terrorism directly at the U.S. or "American interests" was nothing new on September 11, 2001. The USS Cole had been attacked, two embassies had been bombed, the World Trade Center had been bombed, U.S. marines had been attacked in Lebanon, U.S. military personnel had been attacked in Saudi Arabia, a major plot to attack New York City bridges and tunnels had been foiled, etc. All of this before September 11, 2001.

If not for the idiotic bureaucratic snafu of the FAA allowing airline cockpit doors to be unarmored and opened during flight, the attacks of September 11, 2001 would not have happened at all. But of course bureaucrats are bureaucrats and the attacks did happen.

How many incidents of terrorism have we had here in America since September 11, 2001? Not much to speak of. How people can conclude that such a record indicates that we are not safer and that somehow we are less safe makes no sense, to me.

But maybe we are simply facing a semantic distinction here: how safe do people feel verus the actuality of their safety.

It is true that the Bush administration and opportunistic politicians (of both parties) are harping on terrorism as a major, "defining" threat and telling us that we are going to be attacked again, and the media gleefully picks up these messages and promotes them with emotionally manipulative music and graphics and special effects, so that in some sense we shouldn't blame anybody for falling for this blatant manipulation, but I would insist that people as citizens still retain responsibility for sifting through all of that manipulative crap and seeking truth as well as enlightenment.

I'll concede that many people may indeed feel less safe, but that's a far cry from asserting that they are less safe.

Shame on politicans such as Chuck Schumer for seeking to manipulate and politically capitalize on irrational fears. Of course we don't expect better behavior from conservatives, but Liberals are supposed to know better and be better.

I personally do not feel less safe, and having knowledge of what was really happening in the world in the 1990's, I do in fact feel significantly safer than I felt on September 10, 2001.

I cringe at the thought of air travel, not because I worry about terrorist attacks, but simply due to all of the mindless hassles that we have to go through because so many people are harping so insistently that the threat level is still high when the facts show that it is clearly lower.

-- Jack Krupansky

Who will control the House?

An article in the NY Times by Robin Toner and Kate Zernike entitled "G.O.P. Seen to Be in Peril of Losing House" reminds me that the Democrats are getting giddy with glee at the prospect that they may really be able to recapture a majority in the House of Representatives. But, having a majority and having "control" are two completely different things. Sure, even a one-vote majority allows them to change the rules, assign committee chairmen, and have majorities on all committees, and they might have the votes to act as a spoiler at attempts to legislatively advance the conservative agenda, but that is a far cry from having true control of the House where they have the votes to override a presidential veto as they attempt to advance their own liberal agenda.

So, the point remains a question of who and what agenda will control the House in 2007. I lean towards a belief that we will have a do-nothing Congress regardless of who has how slim a majority in the House and Senate.

I would caution the Democrats on two counts:

  1. If you do win a slim, but not veto-proof majority, understand that you won't be able to advance your agenda with successful legislation and voters may be upset with a do-nothing record two years from now and decide to bring the Republicans back in in 2008. Even if fault will lie with Republican spoilers of your agenda, the voters will still place the blame with the party that is in charge at the time.
  2. There is plenty of time between now and the election for Republicans to dramatically shift their campaign tactics and go on the offensive and bull-doze right over any Democrats who sit comfortably on the laurels of their current polling leads. The election will go to the candidates who appear most agile and most willing to align with the interests of the voters, regardless of what bad news flows from Iraq and what shrill rhetoric comes from the mouth of our Secretary of Defense. Do not underestimate the ability of Republicans to take a politically expedient course to win. If they have to engage in appeasement to win, they will. Are they snakes? Yes, but very dangerous snakes. Do not take them or your polling numbers for granted.

My advice to candidates of any party who want to seriously win in November: listen to your prospective constituents, not just your party leaders, and deeply commit yourself to the concept that your job after being elected is to represent the interests of your constituents, and not the special interests of some national "party."

-- Jack Krupansky

What would change if Rumsfeld resigned?

Yesterday I had some comments about whether Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should resign, but I wanted to emphasize one key point: Replacing Rumsfeld does not mean that the Neoconservative agenda which is supported by Bush, Cheney, Hadley, and many others in the Bush administration would also be replaced. Replacing one key player would not change the overall team agenda one iota. Sure, we could see a change in personality and "tone", but no change in results.

Replacing one Neoconservative with another is unlikely to result in a different outcome.

Replacing one Neoconservative out of a group of Neoconservatives with a non-Neoconservative is also unlikely to result in a different outcome.

A key caution: Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it. Rumsfeld might be replaced with someone who has a softer, more comforting "tone" and rhetoric in public that can not be attacked and ridiculed as easily, but pursues the same overall agenda.

Now, if someone wants to argue that President Bush should be impeached (and Cheney as well), that would have the prospect of a new overall team that could result in a different outcome.

Merely calling for Rumsfeld's resignation is simply a political cheap-shot, designed to score some political points.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Should Rumsfeld resign?

As illustrated in a NY Times article by David Chen entitled "G.O.P. Hopeful Says Rumsfeld Should Resign", an increasing chorus of political voices is calling for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign, primarily over his management of the war in Iraq as well as his "inappropriate" political rhetoric. I am no supporter of Mr. Rumsfeld, but it is clear that most of these calls for his resignation are primarily political in nature and have less to do with whose face is associated with heading the Pentagon.

Who would replace him? It would have to be somebody who had the confidence of President Bush, but would also have to be somebody who even leading Democrats would agree in private is a credible replacement.

Further, who in their right mind would want the job? It would have to be someone late in their career who is willing to make very unpopular decisions focused on cleaning up the mess as best as is possible. That may mean staying in Iraq longer than anti-war Democrats are willing to publicly tolerate.

It would have to be someone who passionately believes in the value of consensus among allies (as opposed to a mere "coalition of the willing") and the deep value of hard-core, hard-nosed diplomacy and negotiation.

Unfortunately, such a person would be unlikely to go along with the original Neoconservative agenda of using military force to pursue radical democratization, with Iran coming up as the next military target. That dramatically reduces the odds that President Bush would seek or accept Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation.

Personally, I would lobby for former Secretary of State Colin Powell to be the new Secretary of Defense. The so-called "Powell Doctrine" always was a sound idea. Let him take a shot at it.

My second choice would be former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen.

Of course, none of this is likely. Instead, the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney administration will muddle though the next two years and a new administration will take over the reins in 2009.

If the Democrats do win in 2008, I would lobby that Bill Clinton be drafted as a permanent envoy to the Middle East and charged with the full-time task of working through the issues with all parties, including Iran and Syria, as well as religious leaders.

My answer to the headline question: It's fairly irrelevant whether Rumsfeld resigns. If President Bush wants a new approach, Rumsfeld can easily be sacked, but unless President Bush does seek a dramatic change in approach, changing the face at the Pentagon will have little real value. For now, Rumsfeld can and should stay. Let him clean up the mess that he helped to create.

-- Jack Krupansky

The weakening of the Republican Party

Karl Rove is the man. If there is a way to win a political campaign, he is the guy who can do it. People may be appalled at his "values" and the techniques that he is willing to employ, but there is no question that he knows how to get the job done. I read in a NY Times article by Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg entited "Rove’s Word Is No Longer G.O.P. Gospel" that Republican candidates are running scared and attempting to distance themselves from the adninistration's low approval ratings. Rove has not lost his touch. Sure, the Neoconservatives have bitten off more than they can chew with their "War on Terrorism", but Rove will only do the best that can be done in a bad situation. After all, many of these scared Republicans actually approved of the administration's approach to terrorism, preemptive war, and radical democratization of "failed states". They even egged the President on and were ardent cheerleaders for his policies. Only now when Iraq has devolved into a "civil quagmire" are they deciding to "cut and run" -- from their own policy decisions.

These turncoat Republicans may feel that there is a significant risk with Rove's strategy and advice, and this is in fact true, but it is also true that running counter to Rove's better judgment is far riskier and an even surer path to defeat, either at the polls or in a weakened ability to shape policy on Capital Hill.

Sure, some of these Republican turncoats may in fact win in November, but that means they will return to Washington in January with far less vigor to pursue adminstration conservative policies and far less ability to influence administration policies in a positive manner.

I don't approve of the administration's foreign policy or a lot of Rove's techniques, but the Republican party would serve its own interests far better by losing a few battles during this election, in the name of maintaining its integrity for the longer-haul "war" against the liberals.

Liberals will be pleased to hear that it is unlikely that Republicans will follow my best advice any more than they will follow Rove's best advice.

Win or lose, the Republican party will be dramatically weakened as this election plays out.

Alas, the flip side is not that the Liberals will regain control of Congress, but merely that nobody will control Congress. We'll have a lot of Democrats acting like Republicans and a lot of Republicans acting like Democrats. The good news is than more politicans will be acting like Independents.

Some may lament that we'll be stuck with a do-nothing Congress for two years, but the real truth is the best that Congress can ever do for most citizens is to stay out of our lives and do precisely that: nothing. New laws promise much but rarely deliver on their promise and usually make life miserable for all but the consultants and service providers who "help" citizens and businesses cope with the odd and perverse changes that legislation brings to our doorsteps.

So, what if we get stuck with a do-nothing Congress? My response: Bring 'em on!

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Should Iran be sanctioned for enriching Uranium?

I remain unpersuaded by arguments that Iran should be sanctioned for enriching Uranium. The campaign against Iran is primarily due to the efforts of the Pro-Israel Lobby and there is no strong evidence that Iran is a significant threat to us here in America.

Iran may indeed be intent on developing and deploying nuclear weapons -- although there is no strong evidence of such an intent --- and that is their prerogative if they feel so inclined. Sure, we should take reasonable steps to dissuade Iran from developing and deploying nuclear weapons, but the emphasis must be on reasonable. Step number one should be to propose that the Middle East be a nuclear-free zone and insist that Israel give up its nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons program. If we refuse to take those steps, then we are obligated to permit Iran to pursue the same course.

The huge elephant standing in the middle of the room that nobody wants to talk about is the idea that the Bush administration, its Neoconservative backers, and the Pro-Israel Lobby in general are not really that committed to "diplomacy" and are merely using it as a ruse to buy time and an excuse to eventually launch a military campaign against Iran. There is no strong evidence of those intentions per se, but it is clearly percolating in the minds of many people. As the NY Times put it in an article entitled "Russia Hints It Won’t Back Any Penalties Against Iran":

... Mr. Lavrov left in doubt whether Russia would ever agree to any penalties. His view echoed one heard increasingly here: that sanctions could be a first step toward a new American-led military conflict in the Middle East.

My view is that we should do the exact opposite of sanctions and removed all existing U.S. sanctions against Iran and encourage much more good old-fashioned Capitalism to seep into Iran and gradually they will come around to Western values and not push so intentsely for confrontation with The West. China is an example of this approach in action, as well as in evolution.

-- Jack Krupansky