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Why Counter-Terrorism Is In Shambles 370

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the honest-guys-never-get-put-in-charge dept.
Early last week several questions were submitted to former CIA analyst Ray McGovern about the sad state of counter-terrorism in the United States, and he has answered frankly and in-depth. In addition, McGovern solicited former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley to review his answers and provide her own comments. Ray's biggest tip to the intelligence community was to "HOLD ACCOUNTABLE THOSE RESPONSIBLE. More 'reform' is the last thing we need. Sorry, but we DO have to look back. The most effective step would be to release the CIA Inspector General report on intelligence community performance prior to 9/11. That investigation was run by, and its report was prepared by an honest man, it turns out. It was immediately suppressed by then-Acting DCI John McLaughlin — another Tenet clone — and McLaughin's successors as director, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, and now Leon Panetta."
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Why Counter-Terrorism Is In Shambles

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  • So essentially... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peter Steil (1619597) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:57PM (#30785890)
    The people directing the operations believe them to be ineffective? It's all smoke and mirrors, and nothing is really safer? If something was going to happen, it still is, regardless of the measures implemented today? Who could have guess this to be the case?
    • by jo42 (227475) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:09PM (#30786002) Homepage

      The 'War on Terror' will prove to be ineffective as the 'War on Drugs'. When you boil it all down, you are pitting human intelligence against human intelligence. Humans are very clever critters and will find one way or another around obstacles. If any progress at all is to be made, you need to fight the disease, not the symptoms. You have to ask "Why are these people doing this in the first place?" and address that as the root problem.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Locke2005 (849178)
        You have to ask "Why are these people doing this in the first place?" and address that as the root problem. Well, that sounds like exactly what the terrorists want us to do, you traitor!
        • Here's the problem: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fyngyrz (762201)
          • A bunch of muslimist arabs (19 of 'em) attacked us.
          • People were terrified.
          • Our government launched a war on the liberty of our people. Travel, speech, privacy... all hit hard. Billions spent.
          • Our government attacked.... Iraq, which had nothing to do with the the attack on us. Billions spent.
          • Our government attacked.... Afghanistan, which had nothing to do with the attack on us. Billions spent.
          • Saudi Arabia, which both funded and raised the attackers, is left unmolested because of oil interests.
          • We're still 100%
      • by b4upoo (166390)

        There is no reason to address the root problem as there is no solution to it. This battle goes back over 2000 years. There are instructions in the Old Testament indicating that God directed the Jews to slaughter all others who occupied Israel including infants without any mercy at all. When modern Israel was created Moslems were considered less than human. If you think about that era you will realise that many races were considered less than human at that time. Not being a racist would have been an

      • by genner (694963)

        The 'War on Terror' will prove to be ineffective as the 'War on Drugs'. When you boil it all down, you are pitting human intelligence against human intelligence. Humans are very clever critters and will find one way or another around obstacles. If any progress at all is to be made, you need to fight the disease, not the symptoms. You have to ask "Why are these people doing this in the first place?" and address that as the root problem.

        ....but then everyone would have to admit that were at war with Islam.
        Not going to happen.

      • Re:So essentially... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:58PM (#30786906) Homepage Journal

        Why Counter-Terrorism Is In Shambles

        There are quite a few big assumptions in that phrase.

        First, is that "terrorism" is a serious threat to the population. The numbers of people who have been killed by terrorists do not bear this out. I live in one of the biggest cities in the US, blocks away from the tallest building in the country, and I'm more likely to die from choking on a cheesey poof than from "terrorism". The real issue then is the disruption to society caused by these acts of violence.

        Maybe a "counter-fear" program is what we need instead.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:03PM (#30785950)

    The reason counter-terrorism is in shambles is BECAUSE IT CAN WITHOUT CAUSING ANY PROBLEMS.

    The number of actual terror attacks is so damn low, it is in the noise. So it doesn't matter if we have an uber-perfect counter-terrorism program or one that is total bullshit. The results are gonna be pretty much the same - barely any terrorist attacks.

    In places where there is a substantial threat, like everybody's favorite example - Israel - they have to actually do something in order to make a difference. And even then the results are far from perfect - they have more successful terrorist attacks in Israel than we have just attempted attacks in the USA.

  • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:05PM (#30785970)

    The answer to that first question (the first part anyway) could basically be summed up in one sentence: Read the goddamned 9/11 Commission Report. As one of probably seven Americans who actually did, I must say that it always surprised me just how flat it seemed to fall on the populous and government both. Sure, it made the NYT best-seller list for a bit, because hey, in 2004 what better coffee table book was there?

    Sure, the first third of the report might be horrifying, and the middle third was extremely dry, but they were still extremely telling. What's more, the final section offered some suggestions, potential fixes, and forward-thinking plans that were excellent. Of course none of them were fully-fledged, but they were great jumping-off points. How many were put into action? Surely not too many, and five and a half years later we're still reeling from that inaction.

    The main message in the report was that of any good relationship, communication, and that's precisely what hasn't been happening. McGovern hits a lot of good points, but I agree with him that this is all incredibly old. Not stale, because it hasn't been done, but old nonetheless. And lord knows holding those responsible responsible is a novel concept.

    • by antirelic (1030688) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:21PM (#30786096) Journal

      There were many aspects of the 9/11 Commission that were implemented. DHS and DNI were both implemented, and both disasters. Two entities created with bureaucracy as their focal point leads to nothing but disaster. DHS cannot properly allocate resources, cannot hold onto talent, promotes the most incomptent boobs into positions of power, and is lead by a moron, Janet Napolitano who makes former FEMA chief Mike Brown look like Rudy Giuliani. The DNI is a complete wreck, which was suppose to "coordinate" intelligence sharing between all the agencies, but has instead keeps trying to usurp the functions of the CIA.

    • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:05PM (#30786466)

      And lord knows holding those responsible responsible is a novel concept.

      I don't know what George Tenet did or didn't do, I don't know how much of a nutball the owner of that site is, and I have no idea if McGovern was good as his job while he was in the business for 27 years, but he was right about that one thing: there are no consequences to being appointed to a prominent US government position and being a fuckup.

      That site had a funny smell around the edges and some of McGovern's response starting out seemed pretty hand-wavy, but the part about why the CIA was created and why there's a Director of that organization rang true. Intelligence about Japanese intentions was available, it failed to be correlated, and Pearl Harbor happened. So why did the investigation fail to name names? Why did the 9/11 Commission mumble around with suggestions that didn't involve actual people?

      I can think of two answers to that, that are the opposite sides of the same coin. The first being the good old boy network: "George is a good man he is. I know 'cause I see him in passing every Tuesday at my country club. He must be a good man, because I'm a good man, and we're both members of the same clubs and go to the same restaurants and the same shows." The second being everybody on the Commission wanted to believe that each individual in US intelligence was competent, well-meaning, and diligently doing their job. "Aww shucks, he don't mean nuttin'. If he got appointed to that there job, surely he couldn't have done anything wrong. That's unpossible!" They wrote of institutional failure, as if institutions have some existence outside of the people staffing them. The consequences of the two attitudes result in an unholy marriage of cronyism and irresponsibility.

      People decry the children of today. Everybody gets a trophy for showing up, everybody wins, everybody is a beautiful and unique snowflake. I've got bad news. It starts at the top, with OLD people. Elementary schools are just falling in line. George Tenet is 57 years old and presided over what was arguably the US's worst intelligence failure of the past 100 years (2402 killed at Pearl Harbor, 2992 killed on 9/11). Judging by his Wikipedia page (which shows evidence of mangling by opposing factions), he's still wealthy and comfortable and happy. They even gave him a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

      I suppose he got it for showing up.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sir_Sri (199544)

        Or maybe too many people are involved in the process to be clear who exactly is at fault. If there's a bug in code I've written alone that's probably my fault, but if that bug shows up in a shipped version of a playstation game there are lots of layers of people who might have made a mistake.

        Intelligence on a global scale is a huge operation, the guy who takes the phone call in nigeria is not the same guy who sends it to a law enforcement agency or who tries to do anything about it. Computers are really g

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:15PM (#30786566)

      five and a half years later we're still reeling from that inaction.

      Really? We've had, what, like one terrorist attack - the fort hood guy - since then that killed anyone. Ok, I guess the DC sniper counts too.

      If anything, we are reeling from too much action - the tens of billions of dollars of wasted productivity every year just because of the pointless hassle at the airports. How many people have died indirectly because of that? What life-saving drugs have been slowed coming to market by 6 months or a year? What charitable contributions to food banks and medical procedures have dried up because the money went to dealing with the inefficiencies created by the TSA?

      I'm confident in saying we've killed more people indirectly with our counter-terrorism programs than we have saved. After all, the TSA makes a press release every time they bust a guy with a lot of drugs or water bottle and a taped-up battery pack, [tsa.gov] but they have never once issued a press release stating that they've stopped an actual terrorist attack on a plane. And when they are actually tested - they miss the bomb 90% of of the time. [9news.com] And just look at the idiots they actually convict of plotting terrorist attacks - like the guys who thought they could blow up JFK by igniting a gas pipeline. [popularmechanics.com] The guys they "catch" are so hopeless they were no threat to begin with.

      • The guys they "catch" are so hopeless they were no threat to begin with.

        Maybe the terrorists on 9/11 got lucky. They may not have been as hopeless as the recent lot, but they weren't as good as their success might suggest.

        • The idea of the incompetent terrorist actually plays a hand in the conspiracy theory. The maneuvers made by the 9/11 planes, particularly the one that struck the Pentagon, would've been very difficult to pull off in even the conventional planes the pilots were trained on - to say nothing of big passenger jets. Having said that.. the right combination of skill, luck, and desperation can often lead to some highly improbable results.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 15, 2010 @11:06PM (#30787274) Homepage

      Surely not too many, and five and a half years later we're still reeling from that inaction.

      Hey I have a suggestion that may help with this problem:

      Stop reeling.

      No seriously, just stop. You'll be okay. The impact of the blow that initially caused you to reel has long since passed and it's just your own head that is keeping you in this state. So just stop. America has been like a child that was pushed down and just keeps crying and crying and crying. But as soon as you make a funny face at them or otherwise distract them suddenly they're smiling again because the injury stopped hurting a while ago, it's just their brains told them they had been hurt so they should keep crying.

      That's us. That's you. You're reeling because your brain says you should be; there's no real reason for it. It's gone on long enough and it's time to get over it. Terrorism happens. It happens to us a lot less than it happens to other people, and while the one major attack we've had was one of the worst, since then our country has been safe and peaceful compared to so many other parts of the world. Britain, Spain, damn, Israel! They've had to deal with this kind of thing regularly and you know what? When something bad happens they are angry and sad and hurt but then they move on. They don't spend eight years reeling from a single blow.

      This is why so many democracies supported us when we invaded Afghanistan. Because that was appropriate and they understood our pain. Then they were not so supportive when we invaded Iraq in the name of the War on Terror, because it made no sense. And despite all the disinformation the government was spouting, we both know that the only reason that we, the American people, went along with the invasion of Iraq was because we were still reeling. The people were terrified and angry, and they went along with any outlet for it. We were like a child, lashing out at any enemy even if they weren't the one who hurt us.

      So you know the number one thing that we need to do as a country? We need to take a lesson from our British, Spanish, French, Israeli, Japanese, and so on and so on friends and just get over it. Shrug and move on. Terrorism happens, and what the terrorists want is for you to spend eternity terrified that they might do it again. Get it? That's why they're called terrorists?

      Frankly we need to be doing less to stop terror. At least in the way we have been. TSA and DHS and all this bullshit isn't helping, it's just reminding us that we were hurt so we should be scared and angry and all that. We both agree that they've done shit as far as effective policy goes, yet here we are still safe and sound and unhurt. The tools we need to fight terror are the ones we've had all along -- give them more resources if you must, but that's the extent of it. They'll never be good enough, so occasionally someone will hurt us. Oh well such is life.

      • I think you're misinterpreting what I mean by reeling. Not mentally or socially, but institutionally. As the above posters have been so kind to point out, there have been some improvements and there have been very few attacks or serious threats, but there haven't been a lot of changes. At least publicly, we're still under a very similar institutional thought process to September 10th. People can point fingers at Bush or Obama's lack of confirmations, but the underlying process of what is being done hasn

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:08PM (#30785982) Homepage Journal

    Look, the main thing is we forgot that terrorism is a tactic, and let ourselves get swept up in Fear.

    From my personal experience (multiple counter-terrorism ops) what works is fairly simple: basic police detective work.

    Torture doesn't work. Fear plays into what they want.

    Stop living in fear and treat this as we treat natural disasters and food poisoning - don't overreact, don't reduce your freedom or liberty, but do allocate a PORTION of your police resources to proper detective work in tracking them down.

    That works. None of what we've done so far does, sadly.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:28PM (#30786140)
      But, if we treated terrorism as a crime instead of a political statement, then how would we justify invading other countries like Afghanistan and Iraq?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      (emphasis mine)

      Look, the main thing is we forgot that terrorism is a tactic, and let ourselves get swept up in Fear.

      In my opinion, I don't believe that most people ever knew this tidbit of information in the first place. Sure some people would parrot what they heard on the network news after 9/11, "I won't be afraid and let them take my freedoms!", but then they blindly support the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act.

      I agree with you 100% though. People being retarded and killing other people is a fact of life that is perfectly handled by proper detective work.

      Also, people need to realize that 'terrorism' is being used b

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by WillAffleckUW (858324)

        I never said we shouldn't use it as a tactic.

        Just that we need to remember that.

      • Also, people need to realize that 'terrorism' is being used by both sides of the fence. The best example, the 'national threat level' has never been set to Blue or Green. This is a system meant to make the citizens of their own country 'feel safe' but all it does is make people think, "Hey.. you gonna get blowed up real-good-like someday.".

        The entire point of the "national threat level" is to give the government "justification" for continuing the "war on terror". Are we safer than before 9/11? Yes. Why? Because the passengers in flights now are going to overwhelm and take down any hijacker. Before 9/11, you generally did what you could to appease the hijacker, you landed somewhere, if you were uncooperative you might be shot to "make an example", but if you were lucky and cooperative you ended up alive. Anything beyond that is simply pure l

    • I couldnt agree more.

      What we have now is 'security theatre' that we are convinced 'doesn't work' because everytime we turn on the tv the news is fear mongering us into believing that the bogeyman is just waiting to pounce.

      If you read about the terrorism operations that have been stopped in the last few years _many_ of them have one truly scary thing in common: they were set up by government informants that just recruited a few yokels from a local mosque by offering them money / weapons and whipping previous

    • Look, the main thing is we forgot that terrorism is a tactic, and let ourselves get swept up in Fear.

      First, who is the "we" in that sentence? For example, I'm not afraid, and the government certainly isn't listening to me or representing me in any way... though I am very concerned that the government will do something idiotic that will mess up my life in some way.

      Second, I am not at all convinced that fear is the motivation for many of the government's actions. It's more likely that it's an excuse, or

    • God, I wish we had more people saying this.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:28PM (#30786138) Journal

    It was since 9/11 that it struck me: the US secret services, intelligence and security communities are... well, a bit dumb. The measures taken on planes after 9/11 should have been there before. Plain-clothes officers on planes were introduced only AFTER the fact. In Israel that has been common practice since the 70's. I don't even need to mention security theater at the airports in the US. And then the more recent Jordanian double-agent that kills 7 CIA officers in Afghanistan. Then there's the ridiculous list of no-fly passengers that is checked against a name!? Really? Now that's really hard to defeat. And it aggravates everybody who happens to have the same name. These just from the top off my head, but there are much more such stupendously silly things.

    Beyond drastic, strategic changes in philosophy, the intelligence community in the US should be more imaginative, more broad-minded, more alert. Basically, more intelligent.

  • simply start and continue fixing real problems in the world and terrorist won't be able to gather a following of suicidal individuals or other recruits because they won't have a verifiable reason.

    What the World Wants [unesco.org] is not what the fewer than 1% of the world population wants.

    Its really quite amazing when you consider there are near 7 billion people on this planet and what that equates to in less than one percent being war mongering leaders.

  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:50PM (#30786310) Homepage Journal

    There is a long history here that needs to be taken into consideration... We are seeing a paradigm shift in our government that is long overdue. It used to be that the government had to protect paper documents, "eyes only", and the biggest threat were photocopiers and miniature cameras... not any more.

    I wrote about this transformation many years ago. Is it any wonder why the NSA is being brought up and groomed to help protect the critical information assets that the United States has?

    From my post:

    HumInt/SigInt:
    Human Intelligence, CIA
    Signal Intelligence, NSA

    The English have been masters at the spy trade for centuries. In WWII, the United States felt that it should get into the act and turned to the English for guidance.

    With their tutelage, the CIA became a formidable tool against the Soviet threat throughout the cold war. We had clearly defined enemies with clearly defined borders. Gathering intelligence became a methodical science... then, once the Soviet Union collapsed, the clearly defined enemies with clearly defined borders went with it.

    The growth of the internet created an atmosphere wherein information and 'intelligence' became a commodity. Then the emergence of an enemy that is not only difficult, if not impossible, to clearly define but who also operates entirely without borders. The polar opposite from what the CIA were trained to do.

    Not only has this rule-set reset turned the CIA upside-down, it has rendered it all but useless. The UK isn't doing much better either. The problem is that western society itself is at odds with the rules required to make an effective spy agency. Our open government(s), free access to information, laws against spying on citizens and so forth are what both protect our civil liberties as well as create the environment in which our enemies can plot against us.

    The CIA knew about al Qaeda operators operating in the USA prior to 9/11, yet did nothing to notify the FBI. This is because of the opposing nature of each agency. The CIA finds a criminal and wants to string them along to see what intelligence they can uncover by monitoring them. When the FBI finds a criminal, they want to string them up. From the CIA perspective, the FBI sure knows how to screw up an investigation and destroy your intelligence network.

    The CIA is now dysfunctional to the point of uselessness. In fact, there isn't a single effective spy agency in the western world. The current battle we're fighting and the enemy we face is one that cannot be defeated by military might, it is a war that MUST be fought using intelligence.

    So, the administration turned to the only other agency with experience in gathering and monitoring enemies. It also happens that this agency is experts at SigInt, as opposed to the HumInt. The problem is that the NSA is forbidden by law from spying on American Citizens, UNLESS they are monitoring overseas communications. This exception has always been allowed, no warrant necessary. There is no law that states that I have the constitutional right to conspire with enemies overseas.

    No other nation even comes close to the SigInt capabilities of the NSA...

    It is imperative that the NSA get on top of this nations information security. A staggering number of government agencies are still not even behind firewalls! There is so much bureaucratic stagnation that nothing meaningful has been done to secure this nations governmental infrastructure.

    Finally, they are putting an agency in charge that actually *knows* something about security. I applaud this effort wholeheartedly.

    Regards,

    Joel Helgeson

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      Just fyi, I'm only replying to this part because it's the only part of your brilliant post I can take any issue with.

      The problem is that the NSA is forbidden by law from spying on American Citizens, UNLESS they are monitoring overseas communications. This exception has always been allowed, no warrant necessary. There is no law that states that I have the constitutional right to conspire with enemies overseas.

      That's simply not true. FISA is the law that says that the NSA or any other government entity canno

  • by omar.sahal (687649) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:51PM (#30786320) Homepage Journal

    Not true. I am trying to address the right questiontrying to deal with causes, not just symptoms and consequences.

    What if they don't want you to address the causes, maybe the causes are a natrul effect of how business is done. Dealing with causes means changing how you do business.

  • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerteNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:57PM (#30786382)

    The so called acts of "terrorism" against the USA, could be called by another name. They are the resistance. The United States is an empire. it's ok, it's not a bad thing in itself. Embrace what you are. So, there is a resistance. A small, stupid, disorganized, and full of religious fanatics resistance. The fact that the resistance isn't bigger doesn't mean there are not a lot of other people that would like to resist, they just don't think blowing up buildings is the way to resist the empire.

    So, when you say "Anti-terrorism" you actually mean "Anti enemies of the empire". What the government is doing is chasing the enemies of the empire. It is doing so using the worth methodologies: fear, violence, persecution, surveillance. And what the US is accomplishing is far from stopping that resistance: It actually gets more people to join in, and causes even more hate against your country.

    The UK was once a Huge Empire, and they conquered most of the known world. And nobody hated them as much as everyone hates the US. And many times, what they did was actually far worse than the actions of the US. Then, why is the US hated so much? two reasons: One, people don't like self-righteous fucks. Do what you must, but don't pretend to be the land of the free and home of the whatever anymore. You are an empire. Conquer and STFU. Stop trying to sell the "American" way to everyone. Second: Conquer, but don't destroy. The UK conquered half the world, and now those places are known as Australia, The United States, Canada ... The US, OTOH, conquered Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and those places are the same shitholes they were before. They are actually worse now after you screwed them up. Want their oil? Conquer them, get their oil, and in the process establish there and build trains and schools. The Colony model works, the big country takes the resources and cheap work that they need, and the small startup country grows and learns. Eventually, it becomes independent.

    But if you keep conquering, screwing the place up, and then leaving, with the sole goal of selling more weapons and controlling the price of oil, people will hate you mroe and more, and they'll continue trying to blow the fuck out of your country.

    Being a self righteous fuck and saying "why does the world hate us" doesn't help. Realizing what you are, and acting in consequence does.

    • religious fanatics verses self serving and knee jerk reaction, in my opion.
    • by genner (694963)

      The so called acts of "terrorism" against the USA, could be called by another name. They are the resistance. The United States is an empire. it's ok, it's not a bad thing in itself. Embrace what you are. So, there is a resistance. A small, stupid, disorganized, and full of religious fanatics resistance. The fact that the resistance isn't bigger doesn't mean there are not a lot of other people that would like to resist, they just don't think blowing up buildings is the way to resist the empire.

      So, when you say "Anti-terrorism" you actually mean "Anti enemies of the empire". What the government is doing is chasing the enemies of the empire. It is doing so using the worth methodologies: fear, violence, persecution, surveillance. And what the US is accomplishing is far from stopping that resistance: It actually gets more people to join in, and causes even more hate against your country.

      The UK was once a Huge Empire, and they conquered most of the known world. And nobody hated them as much as everyone hates the US. And many times, what they did was actually far worse than the actions of the US. Then, why is the US hated so much? two reasons: One, people don't like self-righteous fucks. Do what you must, but don't pretend to be the land of the free and home of the whatever anymore. You are an empire. Conquer and STFU. Stop trying to sell the "American" way to everyone. Second: Conquer, but don't destroy. The UK conquered half the world, and now those places are known as Australia, The United States, Canada ... The US, OTOH, conquered Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and those places are the same shitholes they were before. They are actually worse now after you screwed them up. Want their oil? Conquer them, get their oil, and in the process establish there and build trains and schools. The Colony model works, the big country takes the resources and cheap work that they need, and the small startup country grows and learns. Eventually, it becomes independent.

      But if you keep conquering, screwing the place up, and then leaving, with the sole goal of selling more weapons and controlling the price of oil, people will hate you mroe and more, and they'll continue trying to blow the fuck out of your country.

      Being a self righteous fuck and saying "why does the world hate us" doesn't help. Realizing what you are, and acting in consequence does.

      So what we remove the Iraqi government and declare it the 51st state?
      I sincerily doubt we will be hated less by doing that.

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Friday January 15, 2010 @10:16PM (#30787024)

      Nonsense.

      First, the US is not an empire. Empires take from their subject states, the United States gives out money, technology and protection. Look at the Roman Empire or British Empire, they levied troops from their subject territories while ripping out the natural resources and taxing trade.

      Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan have never been part of this American Empire you are spouting about. the US sold Saudi Arabia technology, bought oil and let Saudis come to school in the US. Afghanistan's relations with the US were even more tenuous, Iraq was more of a French and Soviet client-state than American ally, while Yemeni-American relations have been distant while the US helped Pakistan for decades against the Soviets and India.

      The UK didn't conquer most of the world, at peak they controlled 1/4 of the land mass and population, and they never controlled the vast bulk of the continental United States.

      Your examples of countries the US "conquered" are all wrong, here are some countries the US did control and did conquer.

      Japan.
      Western Germany.
      Italy.
      South Korea.
      Central and western United States.

      Look at Israel's economy (a client state of the US) compared to the economy of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi - they have the highest per capita GDP.

      Take some time to look at Vietnam - the US pulled out, the south was lost and now that its opened up to the west, its booming. Look at the quality of life in Afghanistan now, oh and it's far from conquered.

      • by fantomas (94850) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:58AM (#30789176)

        You say the USA is not an empire but Israel is a client state of the USA? It seems to me that empires still do exist but the forms of power are a little more subtle than in the Roman or British Empire. People are not excluded from positions of power if they are not Roman citizens - though it could be argued that you'd be marginalised from positions of power if you don't speak English in 'client states'. The British flag is not run up flag poles right across the Empire - though there are preferential trading agreements and even pricing for 'client states' and promises of economic and other support.

        I think geopolitics still exists but it has become a little more subtle. To be fair of course this doesn't just refer to the USA but many other countries. It strikes me that aid money - long term, not disaster support, can be used as a means of establishing and maintaining influence.

      • by shaka (13165) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:23AM (#30789286)

        First, the US is not an empire. Empires take from their subject states, the United States gives out money, technology and protection.

        There are different kinds of empires. Not all of them do their conquering as blatantly as Genghis Khan or the Spanish conquistas. The British Empire was a trade empire during it's first half, exporting technology, trading and bringing home wealth. Chinese empires have seldom attempted to expand or conquer.

        Look at the Roman Empire or British Empire, they levied troops from their subject territories while ripping out the natural resources and taxing trade.

        When the US entered Afghanistan, they bought war lords to help them combat the Taliban. The US doesn't tax trade but controls the rules of trade.
        The US is an empire all right.

        Different empires have different missions, but as imperial missions come, the American mission is pretty similar to the British and the Roman: To spread "civilization" in the name of a christian god. Look to the Spanish empire, the Chinese empires, Tsar Russia and the Soviet Union for other missions.

        I really recommend reading Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States [amazon.com] by Herfried Münkler, a great book which steers clear of the usual theories of imperialism and tries to go beyond, to explain the dynamics of empires, hegemonies and states.

    • by sp3d2orbit (81173)

      Disagreement with the US's policies does not validate the use of violence towards the US or its citizens. There are ways to change policy without the use of violence -- that is the foundation of civilization.

      Terrorists need to find a way to resolve problems like civilized individuals -- to stop acting like barbarians.

    • Ooh. Go to Scotland and say it is your favorite part of england. Hope you can run fast. Then do it in the wrong parts of northern Ireland.

      Many Indians (the sub continent, not the race the USA practically wiped out) fought WITH the nazi's to dismantle the British empire. The palestines worked together with the nazi's as well, again to get the British out (and this is one of the reasons britain has had such a dubious role in the entire conflict, basically both Israelis and Palestinians fought them).

      Now the

  • Because the FBI and CIA are wasting huge resources tracking down and chasing CD and DVD counterfeiters acting as the private police for a group of corporations who have convinced the governments of the world, through extensive bribes, that they're obsolete business models are vital to the modern world.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:03PM (#30786436) Homepage

    I'm basically on board with McGovern, but some of the particulars stuck out to me as half-baked: "Add Washington's propping up of dictatorial, repressive regimes in order to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas -- widely (and accurately) seen as one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan." I think it's true that the US props up dictatorial, repressive regimes in the Middle East and southern Asia (Kuwait, Pahlavi's Iran, ...). I think it's true that we would never have gone to war in Kuwait/Iraq in 1991, Afghanistan in 2001, or Iraq in 2003, if this hadn't been an oil-producing region. This is clearest in the case of Kuwait, and also reasonably clear in the 2003 Iraq invasion, since the WMD pretext was obviously bogus. The least clear one is Afghanistan, which really did have at least some reasonable justification in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks -- although if the region had never had oil, it would have made more sense to invade Saudi Arabia, from which 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists originated.

    But how can McGovern say that "one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan" was "to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas?" This doesn't make any sense. Saddam Hussein was exporting oil before we invaded in 2003. The invasion devastated oil production. And Afghanistan has never been a big oil producer.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that we went to war in Kuwait in 1991 in order to stabilize the Middle East oil producing region, and we went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 as knee-jerk reactions to the 9/11 attacks (which is pretty pathetic, because the whole purpose of terrorism is basically to cause a knee-jerk reaction).

    He makes a big deal out of how nobody admits that one of the main motivations for terrorist attacks on the US is anger about Israel. This is undeniably true. The problem is, what the heck can we do about it now? We tried to hand democracy and territory to the Palestinians on a silver platter, and they messed up. Is there some obvious solution to the Israel problem that I'm missing?

    • by dbIII (701233)

      as half-baked: "Add Washington's propping up of dictatorial, repressive regimes in order to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas

      He's talking about Saudi Arabia so it's not really half-baked.
      The Iraq war had a lot of reasons, most of which are stupid and to the detriment of the USA even if they help individuals and a few corporations, and to this point it's failed at the sensible one (site for US base which he refers to later). I'm surprised that leading retired military figures think that Iraq w

    • by lawpoop (604919)

      But how can McGovern say that "one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan" was "to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas?" ?" This doesn't make any sense. Saddam Hussein was exporting oil before we invaded in 2003. The invasion devastated oil production. And Afghanistan has never been a big oil producer.

      You're thinking "nation-state" and not "regional".

      We are not interested in anybody's particular oil fields -- not Iraq's, not Iran's, etc. What we want to ensure is that there is a free market, which means a free flow, of oil and natural gas, throughout the region. As you may know, there is a big narual gas pipeline being built through Afghanistan, which will connect the Ukraine and other big natural gas fields to the west. We want to make sure that no President Hussein or President Ahmadinejad can distru

  • Clearly there is an axe to grind here, probably for more than what Tenet deserves. That said, what is left out of this critique is the failings of policy makers who in fact determine what the intelligence community focuses on. When policy makers (be they politicians or career employees) focus on short term intelligence needs the IC must reallocate resources to address those wants. Inevitably this is at the expense of longer term intelligence gathering and asset development. Then when something does go

  • Oh ffs people. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZarathustraDK (1291688) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:08PM (#30786490)
    Terrorists are trolls.

    Don't feed the trolls, it's fucking simple.
  • Especially if you keep redefining the word. Simple as that.

    What if this was never about winning a war (on a word) but rather redirecting attention from the war on human rights and personal freedoms (many of which defined in the Constitution everyone loves foaming about), in the interest of money-driven slavery and mass-mind control?

    Now, put *this* in your pipe and smoke it :)

    Or, wake up and get off the grid.

  • The terrorists were manufactured.

    The public is persistent and scrappy, and they refuse to let up. More information keeps cropping up and the threads keep expanding and the picture gets more and more clear. So any beliefs one might have settled on last year or three years ago or earlier based on the available information and spin at the time always need to be updated. That's the way of knowledge; Love it or lie to yourself, (and pretend that Popular Mechanics isn't run by cherry-picking true-believers of

  • by Hasai (131313) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @11:53AM (#30790670)

    Honest. That's it.

    Nobody in a government bureaucracy ever gets fired, no matter how much they screw-up. So, when the pundits and the politicians huff and puff, all the bureaucrats do is roll their eyes and go back to business as usual.

    Go all the way down the chain of the command, and FIRE every single person who touched this mess. Only then will you get the bureaucrats' attention.

    'Nuff said.

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