Friday, March 17, 2006
Mirror room at the Funhouse
Iraq the Model got his hands one of the untranslated Saddam-era documents now being released to the public, (possible in part through the efforts of Roger Simon) Omar writes:
Here are some excerpts from Omar's translation from a document dated September 15, 2001:
Part of the problem in assessing the newly released documents is that their contents must be evaluated after translation for reliability and put into their context. It's not necessarily the case that what they say is "true" in the setting that we find ourselves in today. Consider David Corn's suggestion that Saddam's regime was hostile to al-Qaeda because he was looking for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Does this necessarily contradict Omar's translated document, which talks about "the Iraq connections with Usama Bin Ladin's group during his presence in Iran"? Zarqawi's allegiances may have been far different in 2002 from what they are today. Far more interesting is why Iraq should have been dealing with OBL pre-September 11 when he was in Iran. What was OBL doing there? Why should sensitive discussions between Saddam and the world's most wanted terrorist be conducted where Iraq could not possibly control the venue? Unless Iran was part of the discussions.
The questions will mount before the answers become clear. But one thing seems fairly sure. It was a good move to release the documents. After all, if secrets are going to be leaked to the press why not leak them to the public. That way the public can figure things out for themselves.
posted by wretchard at 4:19 PM
Saddam and Abu Sayyaf
Stephen Hayes looks at some of the infromation available from the recently released Iraqi documents in a Weekly Standard column, Saddam’s Philippines Terror Connection. In it, he notes (again) the connection between the Hussein regime and Abu Sayyaf.
Security Watchtower has taken a look as well.
Monday, March 20, 2006
More GWOT documents are released
Athena at Terrorism Unveiled describes the release of more war-related documents for public review and the challenges it will create.
But Athena adds this caution.
The release of detainee interrogation transcripts is unlikely to be the last event of the sort. There are many other research situations, some in the natural sciences, where there is more data than human analytical capability which can benefit from a dataset release to the public. Data dumps may not long be confined to Iraq-related documents. Supposing that were so, the organization of the blogosphere itself is likely to evolve to meet the challenge. Since not all bloggers will be equally interested in detainee interrogations, networks of specialists are likely to arise in order to perform data mining. A market in information nuggets will probably arise to consume the product.
If I am broadly right then there will probably be a demand for information tools which will allow for collaborative analysis of large data sets. A surprising number of tools are already available commercially, including Instant Messaging, e-mail and various types of groupware. HTTP itself allows the authoring of documents which one can progressively "drill-down" until a source document is reached. And specialized software or portals could be written to enhance collaboration among a distributed group of researchers. It sounds pretty exciting. Considering the general rise of knowledge workers in the economy, these developments are not only natural but probably inevitable.
Societies with well educated, technically capable populations and a large degree of freedom will benefit the most from opportunities like these, while restrictive societies will benefit least. While it would seem natural for bloggers in the Arab world to best take advantage interrogation transcripts or untranslated documents, it may be Israelis, many of whom understand Arabic and English, who will have the initial lead because of their technical sophistication and unrestricted access to the Internet. As the information economy spreads there will be economic pressure on restrictive societies, including Osama's, where women are confined, to adapt or be left behind. Philip Bobbitt wrote that America's key strategic adaptation during the Cold War was developing the Globalized economy in its face-off with world Communism. To Bobbitt, Globalization was America's Communism-killer -- it forced Communist societies to stop being Communist in order to survive -- and the catalyst for unanticipated terrorist challenges from the Third World. It will be interesting to see what the shift to the Information Economy will do to radical Islam, just as to note what future enemies will be engendered by it.
posted by wretchard at 12:00 PM | 39 comments links to this post
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Leaving the 20th century
As more information becomes available about the recent past it becomes necessary for revise the conventionally accepted picture of the War on Terror in the light of new revelations. One site that illustrates the forthcoming flood is the Pajamas Media Iraq files dedicated to covering newly released documents confiscated during OIF. More new documents have just been released and one can only guess what's in them. Some of the documents have already suggested that Saddam may have been in contact with Osama Bin Laden before September 11 to plot terror attacks against the US, though to what extent is yet unknown. A number of recent books have already made good contributions to recent history and more are in the works. Among them: George Packer's Assassin's Gate, Bing Wests's No True Glory and most recently Gordon and Trainor's Cobra II. Nobody is going to be completely happy with the new information. Saddam was not as innocent of WMD intentions as many Liberals retrospectively claimed him to be. He was more brutal than anyone could imagine him to be. Administrations supporters will be unhappy to learn that Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush probably made errors in judgement in the planning and execution of OIF. But Liberals will be saddened to discover that President Bush may not have been eager to invade Iraq at all, despite portrayals to the contrary by the press, deciding only after the intelligence community (which did not entirely cover itself with glory) convinced him that Saddam was an imminent threat. We learn that press exaggerations may have helped abort the first battle of Fallujah, probably to the detriment of the American cause. The recent histories will reignite the debate the role of Colin Powell; whether de-Baathization was a good move in retrospect and about a dozen other things. And about Donald Rumsfeld: the Jawa Report now thinks he should go. Suggestive stories are still pouring in. For example, it may be the case that Saudi Arabian and Pakistani engineers helped destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas. Saddam apparently funded the Abu Sayyaf.
Sebastian Junger (of the Perfect Storm) says Pakistan is still supporting the Taliban and may have helped Osama Bin Laden escape American capture. Details in April's Vanity Fair. Christopher Hitchens highlights the distortions that are closer at hand, pointing out Al Qaeda's almost Satanic and long-standing plan to set every ethnic group in Iraq against every other may succeed because of the US domestic preoccupation with the blame game. Aller gegen alle. And not just in Iraq.
It would have been surprising to discover a really simple narrative behind the events of the last four and half years. The public is only now beginning to catch a glimpse of the fantastic complexity that somehow lay beneath the placid exterior of the 1990s, an era that came to an end with everyone worrying about the millennium software bug but which failed to anticipate September 11. The emergence of bewildering detail is reassuring in this respect: the events since are not the simple contrivance of a few bureaucrats at the Mossad or the CIA. Real historical forces and not cheap conspiracies are at work, though perhaps not every politician has realized that yet.
posted by wretchard at 5:02 AM | 100 comments links to this post
A bridge in Brooklyn
One of the more interesting articles today is from Mark Steyn who reminds those who object to toppling Saddam Hussein just how much they hated containing him. Bottling up Saddam Hussein required parking most of the carrier fleet in the Persian Gulf and keeping large ground and air forces on his borders. Steyn writes:
And containment, as Steyn noted, didn't mean you escaped blame. In fact the policy of containment was often equated with genocide. Yes, you read that right. Not invading Iraq was counted as genocide.
If since Operation Iraqi Freedom the Press has been largely silent about the host of people with missing genitals leaking blood from their rectums the answer to the mystery is quite simple. Steyn says: "Touring Iraq a few weeks after the war, I made a point of stopping in every hospital and enquiring about this pandemic of genital-less Iraqis: not a single doctor or nurse had heard about it." The interesting thing about some of the death figures attributed by the antiwar crowd to America is that they are the sum of supposed deaths from invading Iraq and not invading it. Union is an operation in logic as well as a railroad station in Washington DC.
When America decided after September 11 that Saddam constituted an imminent danger it didn't act precipitously. It spent nearly six agonizing months trying to get the UN to act under Resolution 1441. That delay, far from being free, imposed enormous costs, the greatest of which was that it allowed Saddam to get ready for the most telegraphed invasion in recent history. Ace of Spades notes derisively that those who thought a little more diplomacy would have won France and Russia to the American side should think again. According to ABC News recently released documents suggest that the Russian ambassador -- representative of one America's partners for peace in the Security Council -- leaked the US war plans to Saddam Hussein.
Michael Oren in his account of the Six Day War of 1967 describes the agony of IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin as he watched Arab armies massing at Israel's borders without the power to strike because the Israeli cabinet was divided over whether to absorb the first blow to prove their innocence in the conflict or strike first to gain the military advantage. It's a stark illustration that inaction has a price; that when you "give Peace a chance" you give up other chances. The containment strategy followed against Saddam Hussein and Islamic terrorism before September 11 wasn't cost-free: it gave Saddam and Islamic fundamentalism time to plot, spy and act. It ceded the initiative to them. Mark Steyn's retrospective and information now emerging from Saddam Hussein's archives demonstrate that there was never any such as thing as a free lunch. A bill was always in the mail.
posted by wretchard at 1:50 AM | 160 comments links to this post
Criswell predicts ...
Pajamas Media has posted a translation of Iraq Document CMPC-2003-001950 which recounts the information provided by the Russian Ambassador to Saddam Hussein. Point numbers 3 to 5 in the document say:
Some or most of the information on the US order of battle must have come from Russian intelligence sources. The tally of US Naval units for example, or the count of B52-Hs in the Indian Ocean would most likely have been obtained by technical means like satellite surveillance or naval sensors. But the curious thing about the order of battle given to Saddam on March 2 is that the 4ID does appear in it at all. It was potentially the most dangerously placed American unit of all and the most powerful. Yet the Russian ambassador treats the 4ID as if didn't exist.
A contemporaneous account from the New York Times describes what happened the day before the Russian Ambassador provided his order of battle to Saddam.
Despite what Secretary Rumsfeld and Generals Myers and Franks were saying on March 1 about "lots of options", the Russian Ambassador was certain by March 2 that the 4ID was out of the battle. In the event the US landed the 173 Airborne Brigade in Kurdistan in late March. As to the 4ID itself as contemporaneous Fox News release tells the story:
The other striking thing in Document CMPC-2003-001950 was why the Russians should be particularly worried about the smallest component of the deployment:
Why were these relatively small forces so worrisome? My guess is their location near the Iraq-Syrian border and the composition of these air units were suggestive of support for an air assault attack on traffic to and from Syria. What was moving between Iraq and Syria that would be of concern to the Russians?
The Pajamas documents provide a peek into the greatest diplomatic catastrophe associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom. The elimination of the 4ID from Turkey relieved Saddam at a stroke from the problem of facing a two front war. The US lost the use of its most powerful ground unit and faced the excruciating logistical problem of sailing it thousands of miles to attack along another axis. It deprived America of crucial manpower in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam. It eliminated the unit tasked with tackling the Sunni Triangle and forced other units to spread out and take up the slack. How did this debacle happen? What were its consequences? Readers are invited to comment.
posted by wretchard at 2:50 PM | 66 comments links to this post
Keep it up! Eventually something will stick in the MSM...hopefully.
Are you telling me that this was not about oil?