Tag-Archive for » terrorism «

The Khadrs

The National Post has done yeoman work by assembling a timeline of the Khadr family‘s activities. Some incidents stand out as noteworthy, when viewed in hindsight. The first is the December 1995 arrest of patriarch Ahmed Said Khadr, for his alleged participation in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan. The second is the January 1996 intervention of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (really no more than a request for proper habeas corpus), resulting in the elder Khadr’s release.

Reasonable people can disagree on Omar Khadr’s combatant status and treatment. For my part, I believe he was indoctrinated as a child into a hateful ideology, but also that that ideology is highly resistant to rehabilitation and now renders him a security risk to the nation.

What seems to be beyond dispute is that from 1996 onward, Ahmed Said Khadr and his wife Maha Elsamnah took some pains to move their family into close proximity with al-Qaeda leadership, and to have their young brood trained to fight.

One potential timeline item that is notable for its absence is any hint of prosecution or child welfare action against Maha Elsamnah. Surely a parent who encourages their minority-aged children to be trained as combatants in a treasonous cause ought, at the very least, to be considered unfit. How is it that none of the other Khadr brood were taken from their warped mother’s care?

Anti-terrorism exercise at Incirlik AB, Turkey

The last two or three of the images have a certain desolate quality that make it all too easy to imagine the real thing.

Capt. Kevin Manis prepares to don the rest of his chemical warfare suit during a simulated chemical attack during an anti-terrorism exercise May 25, 2010, at a park in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Captain Manis is with the 39th Air Base Wing Exercise Evaluation Team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy)

Airman 1st Class Daniel Coronado participates in an anti-terrorism exercise May 25, 2010, at the fitness center at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Airman Coronado is with the 39th Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy)

First responders prepare to triage "victims" following a simulated chemical attack during an anti-terrorism exercise May 26, 2010, at the Patriot Village in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy)

First responders check on a "victim" following a simulated chemical attack during an anti-terrorism exercise May 26, 2010, at the Patriot Village in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The exercise tested the base's terrorism-response ability. The base was put into 24-hour operations for the duration of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy)

"Victims" wait for help to arrive following a simulated chemical attack during an anti-terrorism exercise May 26, 2010, at the Patriot Village in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The exercise tested the base's terrorism-response ability. The base was put into 24-hour operations for the duration of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy)

Never been to Incirlik, but something about these images summons up memories of the late 80s/early 90s, and the way one’s helmet band and the old ’82 pattern webbing started to get that “old web gear” smell in the summer humidity.  I miss it, in a way; to my middle-aged self it seems like the smell of youth.

Here’s the original US Air Force photo essay.

Category: National Defence  Tags: ,  Comments off

How to turn an Islamist

In the March/April edition of The National Interest, Former Air Force interrogator Matthew Alexander argues for a smarter, relationship-building approach to prisoner interrogation—a method that has paid rich dividends for Indonesia’s Detachment 88 counterterrorist unit.

The goal of the interrogators is not intelligence information that can prevent future terrorist attacks, but the conversion of the extremists into advocates against violent jihad. Interrogators have, de facto, become the primary facilitators of rehabilitation. In this manner, Karnavian has turned a tactical weapon into strategic leverage, and the results speak for themselves.

Following the implementation of Karnavian’s interrogation strategy, Indonesia did not have a terrorist bombing for almost the entire three years between 2006 and 2009, no doubt chalked up to the cooperation of numerous imprisoned extremists. Two former senior JI members captured by Detachment 88 have since written books admitting their erroneous violent beliefs. One book was a national best seller in Indonesia.

— Alexander, Matthew.  “Martyrdom, Interrupted.” The National Interest, 08 March 2010.

Mr. Alexander’s prescriptions do come with a certain number of partisan pot-shots at the previous presidential administration.  That doesn’t invalidate his argument per se, but it does raise questions about how many of these interrogation concepts are genuinely useful and field-workable, and how many are just a useful rhetorical stick used to beat one’s political opposites.

But as a grand strategy, it’s certainly true that turning the enemy’s key people can provide both useful operational intelligence as well as enormous propaganda victories.  I am all for taking the initiative and making the enemy waste his time on putting out the brush fires we can start.  More importantly it helps drive intellectual wedges between moderate and radical Muslims.

Ironically, many conservatives seem to make the same arguments as the Islamists: the only true Muslims are the ones that practice violent and murderous jihad.  It seems to me that we ought to be making a specific and pointed counter-argument using the voices of non-radical Muslims.   Whether or not moderate or radical Islam is actually closer to the intent of the founder is a secondary or even tertiary concern; the main object is to diminish the radicals’ potential manpower and recruiting pool.

Oddly enough, as the years have gone by my estimation of the Islamist threat has fallen, not risen.  This is not due solely to the fact that terrorist attacks in North America are far and few between, but also because oil reserves are dwindling, and the more I examine it, the more ridiculous Islamism as a political philosophy becomes.

To be blunt, violent Islamism is not the sort of thing anyone with half a brain and decent prospects would subscribe to.  Shackling the aspirations and potential of one-half your population is self-evidently a recipe for widespread human misery.  Retarding scientific and technical advances because they do not fit into 7th century cosmology is obvious self-imposed stagnation.  Arguing the merits of pluralist democracies versus blatantly unpalatable theocracies ought to be child’s play for a civilisation with Hollywood at its disposal.  That we have yet to do so says a lot more about the weakness of current Western philosophical thought than it does about the supposed strength of Islamism.

What little economic strength it has, it derives from “found wealth”—the happy accident of Saudi Arabia, longtime patron of evangelical Wahhabism, sitting astride a large concentration of the globe’s oil reserves.  If someone were to invent a portable garbage-powered Mr. Fusion reactor (a la 1985’s Back to the Future), the revenue stream of many Persian Gulf states would be irrevocably disrupted.

What’s more, political Islam is generally unpopular even in the places where it currently reigns, so I am not so worried that it will ever take hold here.  It is barely managing to hold on to the places it does have, and it manages that only through draconian laws, autocratic government and official suppression of most other religions.

What is far more troubling is that if we cannot rouse ourselves to tackle so weak and brittle an enemy, we will have no hope at all of tackling larger, fiercer pathologies which actually enjoy considerable popularity both at home and abroad.

Category: Pro Victoria  Tags: ,  Comments off

You mean, for a change?

The atomised but still mysteriously broadcasting Osama bin Laden threatens to kill captured Americans if his comrade-in-arms Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is executed.

Because up to this point Al Qaeda’s been putting up their captives at the 5-star Swat Valley Hilton, and paroling them to the grounds on their honour as gentlemen.

Just ask Daniel Pearl, Edwin Dyer, and lots of ordinary Iraqis.

Category: Current Affairs  Tags:  Comments off

Canadian air travel roundup

Terminal 3 Pearson Airport, originally uploaded by Allan P1.

A somewhat random collection of bullet-points from the world of Canadian air travel.

  • Air France caves in to the class action suit brought by passengers of AF358, and settles for CDN $11.65 million.  The seriously injured (mentally or physically) will receive a maximum $175,000 payout, while the uninjured will receive the minimum payment somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000.  I remind readers that the AF358 incident was a runway overrun in which there was no loss of life amongst its 297 passengers and 12 crew, and in which the biggest financial loss was borne by the airline itself, which had to write off the aircraft completely.  Suits still pending: Air France, suing GTAA and Nav Canada for the loss of an aircraft; GTAA, suing Air France for the cost of post-accident environmental remediation; and one passenger (who opted out of the class-action lawsuit) who is suing all parties.
  • Airline and airport staff are not entirely clear on the specifics of the nonsensical and hastily composed new carry-on baggage regulations, and kind of making it up as they go along.  Big surprise there.  Your correspondent has a suggestion, based upon years of experience watching his wife haul around purses of various sizes (the largest of which could have discharged a tank platoon on Juno Beach in 1944).  A “small” purse is one that can accommodate your wife’s wallet and phone.  A “large” purse is one that has any excess payload capacity beyond that.  As far as laptop bags go, they are all “large”, even if made to cart around a 13″ netbook.  There is no such thing as a small laptop bag, because people cram them full of junk.
  • Farouk of the Flaming Underpants had fantasies of being a holy warrior, says the Toronto Star.  Well yeah—that’s what radical Islamists do.  If he didn’t want to wage jihad against the Great Satan, he probably would have sat down and watched a football game instead of fabricating explosive Y-fronts.
Category: Current Affairs  Tags: , ,  Comments off

Selling the drama

I have some respect for the passengers of Northwest Flight 253, especially Dutch filmmaker Mr. Jasper Schuringa, who reacted quickly and appropriately to a dangerous situation.  But please, pundits professional and amateur, put aside the euphoric army-of-Davids, pack-not-a-herd rhetoric.

NWA253 wasn’t saved because of alert passengers.  It was saved because the would-be bomber was incompetent in both design and fabrication of his explosive device. The passengers did nothing to pre-empt impending tragedy; they merely restrained the bomber after his unsuccessful detonation.  It is not even on the same level as the passengers and cabin crew of American Airlines 63, who halted the attempted ignition of Richard Reid’s shoes.  The fuse leading into Reid’s shoe hadn’t been lit; let alone lit and providing an obvious warning in the form of firecracker-like noises and smells.

The moral of the Flight 253 story is not that ultra-vigilant passengers will save the day (although this is not a bad thing and sometimes, they might).  Remember that had the explosive device been properly designed and fabricated, there would have been precious little for those passengers to do except fall to their deaths.

There are instead three better lessons from NWA253. The first is that you cannot always rely upon airport screeners (whether foreign or domestic) to have and use the best possible equipment.  They might not have the equipment, or when they do, they might use it selectively—by prioritizing it for something other than routine screening (like say, narcotics smuggling).  This might require certain nations (or air carriers themselves) to have their own screening personnel and equipment at the originating airport.

The second lesson is that intelligence and law enforcement services need greater cooperation and coordination in order to effectively act upon leads given to them.  Having received a timely warning from Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father, the bomber should have been set aside for more intensive scrutiny prior to boarding, which—presumably—would have led to denial of boarding.

The third lesson is that the approach to security screening that we have today—a widely-cast net, inefficiently searching one and all for a limited range of explosives and weapons—is inadequate; it is not focused, accurate or granular enough to detect the threat.

There are other, more manpower-intensive approaches—just one example would be the behavioral profiling used by Israeli carrier El Al.  El Al interviews every passenger before boarding, relying on the experience and intution of its screeners to weed out the nervous and suspicious.  Our own airport security screeners do not tend to focus on human intelligence and psychological factors; they rely on technical means (x-ray scanners and chemical detectors) instead.  And technology, of course, is not as infallible as many would like to think.

Perhaps the best defence is a fusion of these methods; human intelligence buttressed with technical intelligence.  Surely that is several times better than your seat-mates reacting to a bomb after it’s failed.

Intelligence Review, c1946

The Kings of Saudi Arabia and Egypt flanked by the Crown Prince of Iraq, the Presidents of Lebanon, Syria, and the heir of the King of Yemen. Cairo, c1946.

The Islamic world, in the judgment of the Military Intelligence Division of the U.S. War Department, circa 1946.  Simultaneously fascinating and depressing that the estimate of intelligence professionals sixty-four years ago is just as relevant today.


With few exceptions, the states in it [the Muslim world] are marked by poverty, ignorance, and stagnation. It is full of discontent and frustration, yet alive with consciousness of its inferiority and with determination to achieve some kind of betterment.

Two basic urges meet head-on in this area, and conflict is inherent in this collision of interests. These urges reveal themselves in the daily news accounts of killings and terrorism, of pressure groups in opposition, and of raw nationalism and naked expansionism masquerading as diplomatic maneuvers.

The first of these urges originates within the Moslems’ own sphere. The Moslems remember the power with which once they not only ruled their own domains but also overpowered half of Europe, yet they are painfully aware of their present economic, cultural and military impoverishment. Thus a terrific internal pressure is building up in their collective thinking. The Moslems intend, by any means possible, to regain political independence and to reap the profits of their own resources. The Moslems intend, by any means possible, to regain political independence and to reap the profits of their own resources, which in recent times and up to the present have been surrendered to the exploitation of foreigners who could provide capital investment. The area, in short, has an inferiority complex, and its activities are thus as unpredictable as those of any individual so motivated.

The other fundamental urge originates externally. The world’s great and near-great Powers cover the economic riches of the Moslem area and are also mindful of the strategic locations of some of the domains. Their actions are also difficult to predict, because each of these powers sees itself in the position of the customer who wants to do his shopping in a hurry because he happens to know the store is going to be robbed.

In an atmosphere so sated with the inflammable gases of distrust and ambition, the slightest spark could lead to an explosion which might implicate every country committed to the maintenance of world peace…

The Present Estimate

If the Moslem states were strong and stable, their behavior would be more predictable. They are, however, weak and torn by internal stresses; furthermore, their peoples are insufficiently educated to appraise propaganda or to understand the motives of those who promise a new Heaven and a new Earth.

Because of the strategic position of the Moslem world and the relentlessness of its peoples, the Moslem states constitute a potential threat to world peace. There cannot be permanent world stability, when one-seventh of the earth’s population exists under the economic and political conditions that are imposed upon the Moslems.

— United States.  Department of War.  “Islam: A threat to world stability.” Intelligence Review No. 1, 14 February 1946. [Emphasis mine]

There are ten pages of analysis in all, you can download and read the entire document from the Federation of American Scientists, or download an excerpt of only the ten page Islam report from The Company.

Category: Historica  Tags: ,  Comments off

The battle will go on for the rest of our lives

Christopher Hitchens engages in a rambling and somewhat self-indulgent rant about “security theatre”, but manages to get the lead out in the closing paragraph.

What nobody in authority thinks us grown-up enough to be told is this: We had better get used to being the civilians who are under a relentless and planned assault from the pledged supporters of a wicked theocratic ideology. These people will kill themselves to attack hotels, weddings, buses, subways, cinemas, and trains. They consider Jews, Christians, Hindus, women, homosexuals, and dissident Muslims (to give only the main instances) to be divinely mandated slaughter victims. Our civil aviation is only the most psychologically frightening symbol of a plethora of potential targets. The future murderers will generally not be from refugee camps or slums (though they are being indoctrinated every day in our prisons); they will frequently be from educated backgrounds, and they will often not be from overseas at all. They are already in our suburbs and even in our military. We can expect to take casualties. The battle will go on for the rest of our lives. Those who plan our destruction know what they want, and they are prepared to kill and die for it. Those who don’t get the point prefer to whine about “endless war,” accidentally speaking the truth about something of which the attempted Christmas bombing over Michigan was only a foretaste. While we fumble with bureaucracy and euphemism, they are flying high.

— Hitchens, Christopher.  “The truth about airplane security measures.” Slate, 28 December 2009. [Emphasis is mine.]

Category: Current Affairs, Pro Victoria  Tags:  Comments off

Canadian Pacific Airlines Flight 108

Canadian Pacific Airlines Douglas DC-3 CF-CUA photographed at Bagotville, Quebec by Guy Allard; August 1947.  (Jacques Trempe collection | 1000aircraftphotos.com)

Canadian Pacific Airlines Douglas DC-3A-360/C-47 (CF-CUA c/n 4518) photographed at Bagotville, Quebec by Guy Allard; August 1947. (Jacques Trempe collection | 1000aircraftphotos.com)

This aircraft, along with its 19 passengers and 4 crew, was destroyed sixty years ago today by an explosive device placed in the No. 1 forward baggage hold.  The explosive was crude but effective; several sticks of dynamite with an alarm clock as timer.  It had been set to detonate while the aircraft was over the St. Lawrence River—rendering accident investigation difficult given the methods of the time—but a 5-minute delay leaving Québec City left the aircraft over dry land when it exploded.  It was the world’s third—and deadliest—act of airline terrorism.

The perpetrator was 32-year-old Joseph-Albert Guay, a watch and jewellry salesman with a faltering business and faltering marriage.  His relationship with his wife, 28-year-old Rita Morel, was stormy at best; eventually she and their 5-year-old daughter moved back to her mother’s home.  Divorce was rare in 1940s Québec, or so we are told.  Guay, meanwhile, dated 17-year-old waitress Marie-Ange Robitaille; but she dumped him when she found out he was already married.  Guay then resolved to kill his wife, initially by poison, but then settled on an air tragedy instead; he took out a $10,000 travel insurance policy on Morel.

Lacking the skills to contruct the weapon himself, Guay asked clockmaker Généreux Ruest to build a timed explosive with dynamite, batteries and an alarm clock.  Ruest got his sister, Marguerite Pitre, to buy the dynamite from a hardware store; she was also the one to deliver the disguised bomb (as air freight) to the aircraft on that fateful day.  Guay enticed his wife to make the trip by asking her to fly to Baie Comeau to pick up a box of jewellery on his behalf.

Flight 108 had originated in Montréal and made a brief stopover in Québec City, where Mrs. Morel boarded.  Mrs. Pitre arrived at the airfield via taxi, insisting that her suspiciously overweight package go aboard.  As the plane was already starting up, the clerk relented and rushed it aboard.  The aircraft left at 10:25 local time, and went down 20 minutes later near Sault-au-Cochon, 70 kilometres north of Québec City.

Investigation initially focused on the unidentified mystery shipper, who was later identified as Pitre.  When police began questioning her, Guay encouraged Pitre to take her own life, implying that she would be prime suspect and suffer the greatest punishment.  Pitre did make a botched attempt at suicide, and while recovering in hospital, confessed the details of the plot to police.

All three conspirators were found guilty and eventually executed for their crime.  Joseph-Albert Guay was hanged on Jan. 19, 1951 in the Bordeaux Jail, outside Montreal.  Généreux Ruest, who was crippled by tuberculosis and used a wheelchair, was hanged in July of 1952.  Pitre maintained her innocence and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, but was ultimately unsuccessful.  She was the thirteenth and last woman executed in Canada, on January 9th, 1953.