Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Terrorism (page 1 / 1)

Condemning the Alt-Right

I wanted to check in on what "my" side (the political right) was saying about the despicable events in Charlottesville, VA, so I took a look at the National Review's massive group blog, The Corner. I wasn't disappointed by what I saw.

David French:

Incredibly, key elements of the Trump coalition, including Trump himself, gave the alt-right aid and comfort. Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, proclaimed that his publication, Breitbart.com, was the “the platform for the alt-right,” Breitbart long protected, promoted, and published Milo Yiannopolous – the alt-right’s foremost “respectable” defender – and Trump himself retweeted alt-right accounts and launched into an explicitly racial attack against an American judge of Mexican descent, an attack that delighted his most racist supporters.

In other words, if there ever was a time in recent American political history for an American president to make a clear, unequivocal statement against the alt-right, it was today. Instead, we got a vague condemnation of “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” This is unacceptable, especially given that Trump can be quite specific when he’s truly angry. Just ask the Khan family, Judge Curiel, James Comey, or any other person he considers a personal enemy. Even worse, members of the alt-right openly celebrated Trump’s statement, taking it as a not-so-veiled decision to stand against media calls to condemn their movement.

America is at a dangerous crossroads. I know full well that I could have supplemented my list of violent white supremacist acts with a list of vicious killings and riots from left-wing extremists – including the recent act of lone-wolf progressive terror directed at GOP members of the House and Senate. There is a bloodlust at the political extremes. Now is the time for moral clarity, specific condemnations of vile American movements – no matter how many MAGA hats its members wear – and for actions that back up those appropriately strong words.

As things stand today, we face a darkening political future, potentially greater loss of life, and a degree of polarization that makes 2016 look like a time of national unity. Presidents aren’t all-powerful, but they can either help or hurt. Today, Trump’s words hurt the nation he leads.

Ted Cruz:

The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.

These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail. America is far better than this. Our Nation was built on fundamental truths, none more central than the proposition “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Is there any doubt, at this point, that Ted Cruz would have been a far better President than Donald Trump?

Michael Brendan Dougherty:

Even if you believe as I do, that Spencer’s form of white nationalism is a marginal movement granted far too much attention, the sight of hundreds of unmasked young men marching through Charlottesville with torches and chanting racist slogans inspires genuine fear in many Americans. Trump was given a chance to speak to that fear today, and to offer the same moral condemnation and deflation he’s given others. Instead he essentially repeated his disgraceful half-disavowal of Duke. He refused to call out these white supremacists by name, and condemn them. He merely condemned “all sides.”  An energetic law and order president who had any sense of the divisions in his country would have announced today that he was instructing his Justice Department to look into the people in these groups, and zealously ferret out and prosecute any crimes they turned up. 

This is a target-rich environment. Some of these scummy racists in Charlottesville wore chainmail, others went around shouting their devotion to Adolf Hitler. A president with Trump’s intuitive sense of depravity should be able to call them what they are: evil losers. More pathetic: evil cosplayers.  Just as Spencer took Trump’s “I disavow” without a direct object to be a kind of wink in his direction, surely he’ll take today’s statement about “all sides” as another form of non-condemnation. With his performance today, Trump confirms the worst that has been said about him. He’s done damage to the peace of his country. What a revolting day in America. 

Rich Lowry:

—I’ve been skeptical of the rush to pull up Confederate monuments, and Robert E. Lee—the focus in Charlottesville—is not Nathan Bedford Forrest. But if the monuments are going to become rallying points for neo-Nazis, maybe they really do need to go.

I'd change this from "maybe" to "definitely". Otherwise, I agree with Rich. I've also been skeptical of the movement to remove Confederate monuments, but if the alt-right is organizing around them, it's long past time to take them all out.

—It’s always important to maintain some perspective. We aren’t experiencing anything like the level of political violence of the late-1960s and mid-1970s. But we now have two fringes on the right and the left, the white nationalists and anti-fa, who have a taste for violence, love the thrill and attention that comes with it, and are probably going to grow stronger rather than weaker. Depressing.

I agree.

This entry was tagged. Racism Terrorism

The Blasphemy We Need →

I agree with Ross Douthat.

We are in a situation where my third point applies, because the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

John Yoo on the Manning verdict

Last weekend, Bush torture lawyer John Yoo wrote about his disgust with the Manning verdict.

Bradley Manning caused one of the most harmful leaks in American history. He released into the public eye the identities of foreigners helping the U.S. in war zones, the means and methods of U.S. military operations, and our sensitive diplomatic communications with other nations. Lives — American and foreign — no doubt were lost because of the leaks. If anyone can think of a more harmful blow to U.S. intelligence in our history, let’s hear it. 

I've heard other people refer to the Manning leak as one of the most harmful in American history. But I don't think I've ever seen anyone offer any proof for that assertion. John Yoo needs to do something to prove that it was the most harmful leak in American history. Where's the evidence?

Manning published data that supposedly contained the names and identities of various American (and allied) agents who were working undercover. The data also allegedly contained the names of various Iraqis and Afghanis who were helping us, against the terrorists and the Taliban. I've seen people allege that our enemies would use that data to punish our friends.

It seems like it would be pretty easy to quantify how deadly this leak was, if it was deadly. Which agents and allies, named in the leaked documents, have since been killed, terrorized, or harmed by our enemies? Whose lives were lost because of Manning's leak? If this was a deadly leak, wouldn't that be dramatic proof? Wouldn't something have come out in a Congressional hearing, Department of Defense or Homeland Security press release, or presidential interview? Wouldn't the Administration and its allies constantly trumpet how harmful Manning's leak was?

Unless I've completely missed it, no one has done anything of the sort. I'm not convinced that Manning's leak was the most harmful in American history. And I'm not inclined to take the bald-faced word of a lawyer who thinks that the Constitution places no restraints on the President's powers to order people tortured.

Key task force not convened during Benghazi consulate attack →

It's crystal clear to me that President Obama is definitely the right man to lead our national security apparatus. #sarcasm

CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).

"The CSG is the one group that's supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies," a high-ranking government official told CBS News. "They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon."

Information shared with CBS News from top counterterrorism sources in the government and military reveal keen frustration over the U.S. response on Sept. 11, the night ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans were killed in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

... Absent coordination from Counterterrorism Security Group, a senior US counterterrorism official says the response to the crisis became more confused. The official says the FBI received a call during the attack representing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and requesting agents be deployed. But he and his colleagues agreed the agents "would not make any difference without security and other enablers to get them in the country and synch their efforts with military and diplomatic efforts to maximize their success."

Another senior counter terrorism official says a hostage rescue team was alternately asked to get ready and then stand down throughout the night, as officials seemed unable to make up their minds.

... The Administration also didn't call on the only interagency, on-call, short notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide: the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST). FEST's seasoned experts leave within four hours of notification and can provide "the fastest assistance possible."

FEST Teams deployed immediately after al Qaeda bombings of US embassies in East Africa in 1998, and the USS Cole in 2000, but were not used for Benghazi, to the chagrin of some insiders. It's likely that the CSG task force, if contacted, would have recommended FEST aid.

"First a tactical response was needed," says a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, "and while that was being implemented, the holistic response could have been developed and deployed within hours" which could have allowed the FBI investigate safely on site well ahead of the "24 days it took."

New Details on Benghazi →

On the night of the 9/11 anniversary assault at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Americans defending the compound and a nearby CIA annex were severely outmanned. Nonetheless, the State Department never requested military backup that evening, two senior U.S. officials familiar with the details of military planning tell The Daily Beast.

In its seventh week, discussion about what happened in Benghazi has begun to focus on why military teams in the region did not respond to the assault on the U.S. mission and the nearby CIA annex. The only security backup that did arrive that evening were former special-operations soldiers under the command of the CIA—one from the nearby annex and another Quick Reaction Force from Tripoli. On Friday, Fox News reported that requests from CIA officers for air support on the evening of the attacks were rejected. (The Daily Beast was not able to confirm that those requests were made, though no U.S. official contacted for this story directly refuted the claim either.)

... But military backup may have made a difference at around five the following morning, when a second wave of attackers assaulted the CIA annex where embassy personnel had taken refuge. It was during this second wave of attacks that two ex-SEALs working for the CIA’s security teams—Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods—were killed in a mortar strike.

Normally it would be the job of the U.S. ambassador on location to request a military response. But Stevens likely died in the first two hours of the attack. The responsibility for requesting military backup would then have fallen to the deputy chief of mission at Benghazi or officials at the State Department in Washington.

“The State Department is responsible for assessing security at its diplomatic installations and for requesting support from other government agencies if they need it,” a senior U.S. Defense official said. “There was no request from the Department of State to intervene militarily on the night of the attack.”

The president, however, would have the final say as to whether or not to send in the military.

'Troubling' Surveillance Before Benghazi Attack →

More evidence of crappy security in Benghazi.

More than six weeks after the shocking assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi -- and nearly a month after an FBI team arrived to collect evidence about the attack - the battle-scarred, fire-damaged compound where Ambassador Chris Stevens and another Foreign Service officer lost their lives on Sept. 11 still holds sensitive documents and other relics of that traumatic final day, including drafts of two letters worrying that the compound was under "troubling" surveillance and complaining that the Libyan government failed to fulfill requests for additional security.

When we visited on Oct. 26 to prepare a story for Dubai based Al Aan TV, we found not only Stevens's personal copy of the Aug. 6 New Yorker, lying on remnants of the bed in the safe room where Stevens spent his final hours, but several ash-strewn documents beneath rubble in the looted Tactical Operations Center, one of the four main buildings of the partially destroyed compound. Some of the documents -- such as an email from Stevens to his political officer in Benghazi and a flight itinerary sent to Sean Smith, a U.S. diplomat slain in the attack -- are clearly marked as State Department correspondence. Others are unsigned printouts of messages to local and national Libyan authorities. The two unsigned draft letters are both dated Sept. 11 and express strong fears about the security situation at the compound on what would turn out to be a tragic day. They also indicate that Stevens and his team had officially requested additional security at the Benghazi compound for his visit -- and that they apparently did not feel it was being provided.

One letter, written on Sept. 11 and addressed to Mohamed Obeidi, the head of the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs' office in Benghazi, reads:

"Finally, early this morning at 0643, September 11, 2012, one of our diligent guards made a troubling report. Near our main gate, a member of the police force was seen in the upper level of a building across from our compound. It is reported that this person was photographing the inside of the U.S. special mission and furthermore that this person was part of the police unit sent to protect the mission. The police car stationed where this event occurred was number 322."

The account accords with a message written by Smith, the IT officer who was killed in the assault, on a gaming forum on Sept. 11. "Assuming we don't die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police' that guard the compound taking pictures," he wrote hours before the assault.

... It is not clear whether the U.S. letters were ever sent, and if so, what action was taken before the assault on the evening of Sept. 11. But they speak to a dangerous and uncertain security environment in Benghazi that clearly had many State Department officials worried for their safety.

Fox News Finds Benghazi Smoking Gun, Raises Serious Questions →

James Carafano builds off of Fox New's recent report and asks five good questions.

The cable concluded that the consulate could not withstand a “coordinated attack.” Further, the cable identified terrorist groups that were operating in the area. The existence of this document raises some serious questions.

  1. Why was the cable kept secret for so long?

  2. How could anyone rule out a terrorist attack? In the days following the attack, some senior Administration officials insisted the assault on the embassy was a spontaneous act. This assessment, they claim, was based on the view of the intelligence community. How could intelligence agencies not have access to this cable? If they did, how could they rule out the possibility of a terrorist attack? It just doesn’t add up.

  3. Why didn’t the Administration provide any interim findings of their investigation into the Benghazi attack?

  4. Why wasn’t a coordinated rapid response force ready to go? Given this assessment, it is difficult to understand why an appropriate response force for exactly the kind of attack that happened wasn’t ready to launch at a moment’s notice—and if there was such a capability, why it wasn’t used.

  5. How long do we have to wait to get answers to obvious questions? Nothing the Administration has said to date adequately addresses the issues raised by this cable. The Administration has had more than a month to reflect on this evidence. They ought to be able to comment on it and explain how it squares with what Administration officials have said in the last weeks—and they ought to be able to do it right now.

Classified cable warned consulate couldn't withstand 'coordinated attack' →

The U.S. Mission in Benghazi convened an “emergency meeting” less than a month before the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, because Al Qaeda had training camps in Benghazi and the consulate could not defend against a “coordinated attack,” according to a classified cable reviewed by Fox News.

Summarizing an Aug. 15 emergency meeting convened by the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Aug. 16 cable marked “SECRET” said that the State Department’s senior security officer, also known as the RSO, did not believe the consulate could be protected. “RSO (Regional Security Officer) expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound,” the cable said.

According to a review of the cable addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Emergency Action Committee was also briefed "on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi … these groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs.’” Each U.S. mission has a so-called Emergency Action Committee that is responsible for security measures and emergency planning.

The details in the cable seemed to foreshadow the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. compound, which was a coordinated, commando-style assault using direct and indirect fire. Al Qaeda in North Africa and Ansar al-Sharia, both mentioned in the cable, have since been implicated in the consulate attack.

In addition to describing the security situation in Benghazi as “trending negatively,” the cable said explicitly that the mission would ask for more help. “In light of the uncertain security environment, US Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to US Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover.”

They never received that extra security.

CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack →

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

... they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood, though, denied the claims that requests for support were turned down.

"We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi," she said. "Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.

Hhhm. If no one "in the CIA" told anybody not to help those in need, who did? I notice that Ms. Youngblood didn't say that there was no order to stand down. Merely that the CIA didn't give the order.

Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists →

Oh, goody. The U.S. is moving towards a never-ending kill list, for drone strikes. We're institutionalizing the process, so that we can keep adding names to lists, keep killing the people behind the names, and then repeat—forever. Bureaucracies are self-perpetuating. What happens when we run out of genuine terrorists, to hunt and kill? Who will we add to the lists next?

The number of targets on the lists isn’t fixed, officials said, but fluctuates based on adjustments to criteria. Officials defended the arrangement even while acknowledging an erosion in the caliber of operatives placed in the drones’ cross hairs.

“Is the person currently Number 4 as good as the Number 4 seven years ago? Probably not,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official involved in the process until earlier this year. “But it doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.”

In focusing on bureaucratic refinements, the administration has largely avoided confronting more fundamental questions about the lists. Internal doubts about the effectiveness of the drone campaign are almost nonexistent. So are apparent alternatives.

The Obama administration doesn't even want to consider the possibility of ending the kill lists and the drone strikes. I have little faith that a Romney administration would be better.

Obama administration officials at times have sought to trigger debate over how long the nation might employ the kill lists. But officials said the discussions became dead ends.

In one instance, Mullen, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, returned from Pakistan and recounted a heated confrontation with his counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Mullen told White House and counterterrorism officials that the Pakistani military chief had demanded an answer to a seemingly reasonable question: After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a “top 20” list?

The issue resurfaced after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. Seeking to repair a rift with Pakistan, Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.

A senior aide to Panetta disputed this account, and said Panetta mentioned the shrinking target list during his trip to Islamabad but didn’t raise the prospect that drone strikes would end. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.

“We didn’t want to get into the business of limitless lists,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who spent years overseeing the lists. “There is this apparatus created to deal with counterterrorism. It’s still useful. The question is: When will it stop being useful? I don’t know.”

House: U.S. Embassy in Libya asked for extra security, request denied →

House investigators warned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to expect a hearing into their finding that that American staff at the U.S. Embassy in Libya had their request for additional security denied by Washington officials.

“In addition, multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi,” Issa and Chaffetz added (my emphasis). “The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington.”

Wheels coming off the Libya story →

It was just a few weeks ago at the Democratic national convention that Obama confidently declared that “al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.” And yet, on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda struck again against our lightly guarded consulate in Benghazi, where ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered — an attack, it now turns out, the United States had ample reason to suspect was coming.

I think that foreign policy has gone from being an Obama strength to something that has to be considered an Obama weakness. Right?

Symptoms of Victory

I think we're making progress in the War on Terror -- both in Iraq and in the rest of the world. Here is my evidence for tonight.

American Thinker: A Quiet Triumph May be Brewing

There are signs that the global Islamic jihad movement is splitting apart, in what would be a tremendous achievement for American strategy. The center of the action is in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the very territory which is thought to harbor Usama, and from which Al Qaeda was able to launch 9/11. Capitalizing on existing splits, a trap was set and closed, and the benefits have only begun to be evident.

There were already signs of a split, but recent events strengthen that trend. In March and again in May of this year I reviewed relevant South Asian media reporting to predict that the global Islamic jihad movement was cracking up. That theory focused on a split between the leadership of al Qaeda and the jihad groups that secure them in Pakistan such as the Taliban.

He is probably the most responsible for turning the Taliban -- which he had a significant hand in creating -- against al Qaeda. Which means, believe it or not, on some level he may be working with the Pakistani government and possibly the US government, since he is purely an opportunist. No doubt he will not advertise that fact to his jihadists buddies.

This cannot be overstated: it is the most crucial development since the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Cutting al Qaeda's support in Pakistan has been a massive coup, of which our media has no clue of right now. It is the exact sort of thing that the Democrats and their media accomplices always complain that we are not doing and then completely ignore when we do it.

Check it out.

Next up, casualties in Iraq have been falling sharply lately -- both civilian and military. The media is doing their best to ignore it, Senator Clinton is doing her best to deny it, but it's happening.

Engram, at the Back Talk blog, has been crunching the numbers for the past week or more.

As you can see, deaths caused by Shiite militias in Baghdad dropped instantaneously when the troop surge began to unfold. This occurred because Muqtada al Sadr cooperated with US efforts by pulling his fighters off the streets as the new troops began to arrive. Up until that time, his Mahdi Army was eradicating Sunni males in an effort to quash al Qaeda suicide bombings against Shiite civilians. Note that there were other deaths occurring in Baghdad over this period, but this chart shows the number attributable just to Shiite death squads.

The next amazing chart shows the number of people killed by suicide bombers in Iraq. The IBC database has a field that describes "weapons," and the first word of the weapons description is almost always "suicide" when a suicide bomber is involved. I used that fact to identify casualties due to suicide bombers. If you don't know who the suicide bombers of Iraq are, then you don't much about this conflict (and you should not have strong opinions about the war). The suicide bombers are almost all foreigners that al Qaeda brings into Iraq (mostly through Syria) to indiscriminately slaughter Shiite civilians in an effort to incite civil war (read more about them here). They are not participants in that civil war, contrary to what clueless reporters would have you believe when they preposterously refer to these wretched terrorists as "insurgents."

As you can see from this chart, the suicide bombing campaign reached a peak in August, just before General Petraeus testified before Congress. It was a desperate ploy, and I say so because the victims were among the widely despised Yazidis. Killing 500 Yazidis did nothing to advance al Qaeda's goal of goading the Shiite militias back into the fight. All it did was provide fodder for the anti-Petraeus elements in America. They needed those casualties in order to have any hope of convincing Americans that the troop surge was a failure. But it did not work. And I know what this chart is going to look like when IBC updates its database to include results from September (because ICCC has recorded all known suicide bombings for that month already). It is going to look something like this:

Hit the link to view the astounding charts. I'm very much encouraged by this news.

Finally, we've been killing off a lot of the top leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Some of our recent kills are shedding light on who, exactly, is leading the group.

In a press conference today, Major General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq, provided further evidence of al Qaeda in Iraq's foreign influence. Bergner highlighted the killing "Muthanna," al Qaeda's the emir of the Iraq/Syrian border. "During this operation, we also captured multiple documents and electronic files that provided insight into al Qaeda's foreign terrorist operations, not only in Iraq but throughout the region," Bergner said. "They detail the larger al-Qaeda effort to organize, coordinate, and transport foreign terrorists into Iraq and other places."

"Muthanna was the emir of Iraq and Syrian border area and he was a key facility of the movement of foreign terrorists once they crossed into Iraq from Syria," Bergner said. "He worked closely with Syrian-based al Qaeda foreign terrorist facilitators."

Bergner said several documents were found in Muthanna's custody, including a list of 500 al Qaeda fighters from "a range of foreign countries that included Libya, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Oman, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom."

Muthanna's capture in early September is but one of 29 al Qaeda high value targets killed or detained by Task Force 88, Multinational Forces Iraq's hunter-killer teams assigned to target senior al Qaeda leaders and operatives. Five al Qaeda operatives have been killed and 24 captured. 5 Emirs at the city level or higher in the AQI leadership structure. 9 geographical or functional cell leaders. * 11 facilitators who supported foreign terrorist and weapons movements.

Four of the senior al Qaeda leaders killed during the month of September include: Abu Usama al Tunisi: The Tunisian born leader who is believed to be the successor to Abu Ayyub al Masri. Yaqub al Masri: The Egyptian-born leader who was in the inner circle with Zarqawi and then also in the inner circle of Abu Ayyub al Masri. He was a close associate of Ayman al Zawahiri. Muhammad al Afari: The Emir of Sinjar, who led the barbaric bombings of the Yazidis in northern Iraq. Abu Taghrid: The Emir of the Rusafa car bomb network.

Have no doubt about it, we are making progress.

Korean hostages and why we should have left them

I've surely got be the world's worst blogger, to have yet written nothing here on Minor Thoughts about the recent kidnapping (and release) of twenty-three Korean missionaries in Afghanistan.

After all, not only have Joe and I always given over the majority of our attention here to politics, economics, and that portion of God's kingdom which extends onto this Earth, the Church, but (a) I personally am living in South Korea right now and (b) have relatives of my own living in Afghanistan. Throw in my own associations with a number of missionaries and one might justly suspect, considering I am that obnoxious kind of people perfectly willing to offer his unsolicited opinion on just about anything, that the hostage situation would receive at least a mention.

But during such crises, there's very little one lone lil' blogger can say that isn't being said everywhere else. The very point of the blog-o-sphere (that's still what the kids are calling it these days, right? I told you I'm out of touch) is, after all, the opportunity it presents to receive alternative perspectives generally unavailable from the mass media - that is, we no longer need to be told by news corporations what your typical man on the street thinks, because the man on the street is basically running his own newspaper, and what he thinks is sometimes far more interesting than previously reported, even if his presentation is inferior. Republican radio shows in the U.S. became popular for the same reason.

The aftermath of the Korean hostage situation suggests far more interesting questions.

That's 'cause, as Reuters has recently noted, the nineteen Korean missionaries recently released by Afghani terrorists haven't exactly received a hero's welcome home. Oh, the Korean people are glad their brothers and sisters are safe, sure, but they still have a bone to pick; their complaint is that twenty-two people foolishly put themselves in an extremely dangerous situation and as a result, Korea itself (and the Afghani reconstruction effort) paid the price - being forced (a debatable term, yes) to deal with terrorists to insure their recovery.

"This crisis [has] raised grave questions about the divide between the country's responsibility and the responsibility of individuals," JoongAng Ilbo, a large Korean newspaper, has grimly muttered.

Indeed it has - but they're questions with fairly obvious answers. As countries all over the world have embraced populism and rejected (if only rhetorically, in many cases) the concept of absolute rule by the few, the notion has naturally evolved that any citizen - and not just royal and government officials - who gets in trouble overseas deserves rescue by his or her government.

On any sensible review, however, that's a ridiculous premise. First of all, making all men equal, one must remember, does not always mean elevating every man to the level of importance once accorded kings; often it means simply knocking the kings themselves down a few pegs, to a lower level on par with their brothers and sisters. Nation-states of old paid high ransoms for captured kings and the like because the citizens of those nation-states believed those people were divinely chosen to rule, or simply were gods themselves. If someone captures a god, it's important to the whole country to get him or her back. The disappearance of one man who knowingly left the safety of his country for private reasons is far less worth negotiations with extremists, especially when those negotations may have real consequences for every other citizen of his country (Koreans are now banned from entering Afghanistan; all of them have lost their freedom to travel there on any business).

Of course, any government employee sent into a foreign country by his or her superiors should rightfully expect as much assistance as possible, should trouble come; such officials are their fellow citizens' official representatives, speaking (or killing, or whatever) in their name. But missionaries arrive at their destinations as representatives only of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let men and women such as the captured Koreans go forth and spread the Gospel, then, but let them not burden their brothers and sisters - who asked for no part in the holy mission - with the fallout from their actions. From a pragmatic standpoint, there is no compelling reason today why the kidnapping of any citizen should lead to negotiations with the kidnappers. No person is worth it.

Nor can the government - and by extension, every citizen in a country - afford to clean up after the missteps of those who voluntarily risk themselves for religious, political, or personal reasons. Logically, the adoption of that unfair weight should not even be a consideration; it's a mismatch with any government's purpose, which is to supervise the specific, limited geographic area in which its citizens reside.

This brings us to a second point, which is an answer to the obvious moral appeal: "But isn't any life worth saving, even if it's costly, and even if the person brought it on himself or herself? What, should a government just leave someone to die?"

Well, leaving aside the evident fact that many lives would probably not be in such danger if their governments didn't keep negotiating with kidnappers, the harsh but just responses are "no" and "Why should that be the government's job?". We make decisions concerning how much a life is worth every day; if we lowered every speed limit in America to 5MPH, we'd have a lot less traffic-related death, but nobody suggests it would be worth it. And why should the government, charged with representing the interests of all, allow its policies for all to be swerved because of an unnecessary risk knowingly taken on by one of its citizens?

Korea's caving in to terrorist demands was a mistake, as are the preventative measures it's introduced in hopes of never seeing the situation repeated.

The line between personal and national responsibility should be clear: it's the border line.