Predator warfare blowback

“Looks like you just lost that bet, Mr. Woodward. I’ll be waiting for your apology,” a reader said after I wrote on Sunday, “if I was to place a bet on who did this, I’d go with someone whose sympathies are probably more Tea Party than Taliban.”

Indeed I was wrong, though I’m not sure what I’m being asked to apologize for. Having engaged in premature speculation or having entertained the suspicion that there could be among the ranks of the Tea Party crowd anyone crazy enough to try and set off a bomb in Times Square?

Even if I and others were mistaken in suggesting that the Times Square incident might be connected to the Tea Party movement, the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem — not pretend it’s simply the victim of unfair criticism.

Moving on, Noah Shachtman reports:

Federal agents have made an arrest in the Times Square bombing attempt. And YouTube may have provided some clues to the investigators.

Faisal Shahzad was attempting to board a plane for Dubai when he was apprehended at New York’s JFK airport. Law enforcement officials believe the Connecticut resident recently bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was rigged with explosives and fertilizer and left smoldering in Times Square.

One “clue in the investigation is a video posted online early Sunday morning by persons in Connecticut, who may have been involved in the bomb attempt and are being sought by law enforcement,” ABC News reports.

The video (below), features the voice of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the “Pakistani Taliban master trainer of suicide bombers,” according to the Long War Journal. The clip congratulates fellow Muslims for the “jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s USA.” “The attack a revenge” for the slaying of extremist leaders in Iraq and Pakistan, the video continues, and is a response to “the recent rain of drone attacks.”

If Faisal Shahzad was the best recruit the Pakistani Taliban could find, the threat they pose to the United States is probably limited, but DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s initial assessment that this was a “one-off” operation is clearly premature. Indeed, if the intense campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan has triggered enough outrage among a few Pakistani Americans to seek revenge in Times Square, then there is one word that this administration should now be thinking about seriously: blowback.

President Obama seems to pride himself in having been less hesitant to take the war to Pakistan than was his predecessor, yet as the reappearance of Hakimullah Mehsud should make clear, the successes of the drone campaign have not been as great as the CIA has often claimed, while the costs have just as frequently been understated.

Killing innocent people “over there,” inevitably elevates the risk that innocent people will again end up dying here.

The bomb-making abilities on display in Times Square may have made some observers respond dismissively — and I am guilty of having done so — but the Taliban’s threat to bring the war to the United States can no longer be regarded as empty rhetoric.

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4 thoughts on “Predator warfare blowback

  1. DE Teodoru

    I think– like our wooden headed military– we’re missing the point. I can understand Mr. Woodward’s error as no one would think that anyone but Tea Party would send out such incompetents. But so would alQaeda because they do the job: TERRORIZE US even as they fail. Look, Taliban gets one guy to buy an SUV with peanuts from their unlimited Gulf stocks of cash and tries something. Like a guerrilla soldier, let’s say, he dies or is captured. So what? What vital assets were invested in him? With that level of investment into his competence he’s no loss as he scares people even as he fails. Meanwhile, we talk about our “Special Forces” (SF) guys. It costs a fortune to train them and they are precious few. They’re more muscle trained than brain trained to observe and many seem to come up with magic formulas of their own:
    WE can see the limits of their strategic thinking there!

    Now I always admired soldiers who go native. But this is kind of native on amphetamines! Yet it is at least concrete compared to what the Pentagon guys write. Yet no one considers how expensive are our SF guys, how long and expensive the logistic trail for our expeditionary corps, and how disruptive to our society as they drain its assets. The Taliban, on the other hand, sends in some fool who either blows himself up or doesn’t. IN Mideast one way shahids are limitless, far more than our SFs. How little preparation they need (and get) indicates how little of terrorism’s unlimited assets it took to send him forth. He failed so what? As my dad used to say when other researchers stole his ideas: I’ve got millions!

  2. Wunjo

    “the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem”

    “If I were to place a bet”, I would say it would be more fruitful to psychoanalyze people like Paul Woodward in order to understand its image problem among people like Paul Woodward. When someone looks at the old ladies at Tea Parties and sees bomb planting extremists, I really don’t think the old ladies are the ones we should worry about.

  3. Ian Arbuckle

    Paul, you have nothing to apologise for. The muddy waters run deep and it is by design not accident. Taleban this, or the Al Qaeda that, these are words and names that are slung around like blankets to cover anything but have very little real meaning except on this side of the info-propaganda war divide. Western half baked intelligence seems more often wrong than not and has mostly been hell bent on identifying “the enemy” (or even finding one). Regularly they have fallen pray to false information often designed to lead them to commit unjustifiable atrocities like the bombing of weddings, stabbing of pregnant women in the night, shooting tied up children in the head or the old family members of Afghan-Canadian parliamentarians protecting their compound from apparent special forces marauders.

    Yes there are extremists who see the Western aggression in the Middle East, East Africa, Iraq and South Asia as a war on Islam, and not without good reason, but on the other hand recruiting and organizing these extremists has not been the exclusive domain of other Middle Eastern, Arab, or South Asian zealots and their funds and complex organizations have been known to lead to agents and strings being pulled from Tel Aviv and Langley.

    So because a south Asian or an Arab is arrested or even later proven to be involved in any of these attempted “shows” of potential violence does not preclude that the powers and motives behind them are not much more mundane and conventional.

    Put more simply, the war on terror “must go on” and is just the latest manifestation of the military industrial complex’s innitiative and nobody is going to sustain those billions and trillions in wars and homeland defence against “imagined” enemies. Now and again they need something substantial to justify their efforts. Real, if difficult to accept in terms of pathetic, “terrorists” must be shown to the masses Just like the witches in the 16th and 17th century, we need the occasional inquisition and trial by fire too, with all the hocus-pocus of torture and state secrecy and all the self righteous political crowing of satisfaction from “leaders” too. They say truth is stranger than fiction even if it is as pathetic as an American Muslim preacher “wanted dead or alive”, apparently coordinating from his pulpit and hiding in Yemen the pathetic attempt by a Nigerian boy, known and advised repeatedly to authorities, including by his father a diplomat, and helped by other “authorities” seemingly to board a plane in Europe, to try and set off a very stupid and improbable devise on his leg just before landing in the US.

    Now we have this pathetic attempt at igniting a car bomb in Time Square… Sorry but to me it all begs belief. I know terrorism when I see it and I have no doubt who is responsible for both sides of the coin. Cause and effect, smoke and mirrors, agent provocateurs, false flag events, all for what end? Now that is an important question mor people should ask.

  4. DE Teodoru

    Hey Wujo, Mr. Woodward, from his perch on the American continent, gave us his personal suspicion and explained why, period. Do you recall after 9/11 the “teabagger types” insisting that there was a dark “Middle Eastern looking” guy with McVey because no on the Right believed that a Red Blooded American veteran would do such a thing on his own so must have been brainwashed by Muslim terrorists? But what’s not discussed is that, so far, the “training” these terrorists get must make the Unabomber laugh in his cell. What all this proves is that our PREVENTIVE security guys are the dummies, rather than alQaeda being the brilliant one. Had security insisted on airlines following the claw and maintaining the pilot’s cabin impenetrable in flight, four airliners would never have been seized in ten minutes each (I won’t mention how all these guys going to flight-school was disregarded by them). On the other hand, it is the “let’s find the guys that did it” gum-shoes who are the real heroes. Instead of beefing up our police detectives should we send drones over Connecticut and, from video consoles in Nevada, drop JDAMs on anything that looks like a mosque?

    Please recall that Mr. Woodward’s hunch about “teabaggers” is based on the assumed competence of alQaeda trainers NOT sending from their terror school such bumbling “grads” against us. If anything, perhaps his problem is that he accepted too much of the Bush-it about what a danger is the alQaeda training camp, as fed to us by the last administration. But I don’t recall such assumption, per DSM VI being diagnostic reason to recommend psychotherapy; has taking your Gov’s words seriously become a mental disorder?

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