Sunday, April 16, 2006

A History of the car bomb: part I, part II

/ vehicles / lethal /
Mike Davis writes about the history of the "poor man's airforce", the car bomb, from its origins at the hands of an Italian-American armed Anarchist, through its use in Palestine, Vietnam, Ireland, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka all the way to today's Iraq. The cheapest WMD around, equally deadly in the hands of a rightwing kook in Oklahoma city, the Italian Mafia, the Hezbollah, The IRA, or the CIA and Al Qaeda. Excerpt (though it's hard to pick only one):

Twenty-first century hindsight makes it clear that the defeat of the U.S. intervention in Lebanon in 1983-84, followed by the CIA's dirty war in Afghanistan, had wider and more potent geopolitical repercussions than the loss of Saigon in 1975. The Vietnam War was, of course, an epic struggle whose imprint upon domestic American politics remains profound, but it belonged to the era of the Cold War's bipolar superpower rivalry. Hezbollah's war in Beirut and south Lebanon, on the other hand, prefigured (and even inspired) the "asymmetric" conflicts that characterize the millennium. Moreover, unlike peoples' war on the scale sustained by the NLF and the North Vietnamese for more than a generation, car-bombing and suicide terrorism are easily franchised and gruesomely applicable in a variety of scenarios. Although rural guerrillas survive in rugged redoubts like Kashmir, the Khyber Pass, and the Andes, the center of gravity of global insurgency has moved from the countryside back to the cities and their slum peripheries. In this post-Cold-War urban context, the Hezbollah bombing of the Marine barracks has become the gold standard of terrorism; the 9/11 attacks, it can be argued, were only an inevitable scaling-up of the suicide truck bomb to airliners.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The unimaginable, planned

/ scenarios / nightmare /
Do you want to read something really scary? Try Seymour Hersh's latest piece in the New Yorker, on the war plans being prepared regarding Iran. I quote:

A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror expressed a similar view. "This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war," he said. The danger, he said, was that "it also reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to defend the country is to have a nuclear capability." A military conflict that destabilized the region could also increase the risk of terror: "Hezbollah comes into play," the adviser said, referring to the terror group that is considered one of the worldÂ’s most successful, and which is now a Lebanese political party with strong ties to Iran. "And here comes Al Qaeda..."

I think at this point, Al Qaeda would not be at the top of one's worries.

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran - —without success, the former intelligence official said. "The White House said, 'Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.' "

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it "a juggernaut that has to be stopped." He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. "There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries," the adviser told me. "This goes to high levels." The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. "The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks," the adviser said. "And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen..."

You know things are getting out of hand when the doves are senior Pentagon officers...

Note also this piece of information:

...As of early winter, I was told by the government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon, the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast. The troops "are studying the terrain, and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds,"” the consultant said. One goal is to get "eyes on the ground"” - —quoting a line from "Othello,"” he said, "“Give me the ocular proof."” The broader aim, the consultant said, is to "“encourage ethnic tensions"” and undermine the regime...

... in light of recent news:

Armed rebels have killed two army officers, and shot a top cleric in troubled Sistan-Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran, a press report said...

...Iranian press reported Thursday that security forces had killed the leader and 11 members of a Sunni militant group, called the Jundallah (soldiers of God) responsible for murdering 26 people last month in Sistan-Baluchistan.

In December, nine Iranian border patrols were kidnapped in the region. The Jundullah (soldiers of God) later claimed the execution of one of the soldiers.

Iran has seen a surge in ethnic violence in the last two years, with unrest in Sistan-Baluchistan, and to the southwest in Khuzistan province, home to a large Sunni Arab population.

In another incident of unrest, three members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards were killed by Wednesday by a Kurdish rebel group known as Pejak in West Azerbaijan province near the border with Turkey.

Iran says Pejak is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has waged a 15-year insurgency against Ankara for self rule in the Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

Iran has pointed the finger at foreign intervention from the United States, Britain for the recent wave of ethnic-related violence.

The dice are rolling? Anyway, the Times report that:

Yesterday the Pentagon attempted to dismiss the report as being filled with “fantastical, wrong and unsubstantiated allegations”. Hersh pointed out that the Pentagon had used similar language initially to describe his revelations about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.