Dec 15, 2008

Why Does KSM Want to be Executed? - Report: Bush, Rumsfeld Responsible for Torture - Blagojevich: Who Is Advisor B?- 8 really, really scary predictions - Nano vs. God - Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst

Why Does KSM Want to be Executed?

Who Cares?

By Andrew C. McCarthy

We don't understand our enemies any better than we did when they first strode out on that great American stage, the federal courtroom, 15 years ago. 

That is the upshot of Monday's latest episode in Mohammed's March to Martyrdom, a dreadful show that should close in Cuba before ever making it to the Great White Way. Five top al-Qaeda terrorists told a military judge at Guantanamo Bay that they want to skip their commission trial, admit — no, brag about — their guilt, and proceed straight to execution and its promised eternity of Boogie Nights.
Mohammed, of course, is none other than KSM, the black artist formerly known as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. That was before he orchestrated the 9/11 atrocities, vaulting into that small circle of celebrity where the initials are all you need to know. Infamy is the achievement of a lifetime for this Baluchi marauder turned courtroom diva. It's what he has always craved: to be known . . . and feared.

In the mid-Nineties, he was just an up-and-comer: anteing up a paltry $660 for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, then co-designing the off-off-Broadway run of Bojinka: an ambitious 1994 production designed to slaughter hundreds of Americans by exploding their cross-Pacific flights in midair — a production that collapsed when a preview detonation failed to bring down the plane, though it did manage to kill a Japanese tourist.

KSM was green with envy when those pilots became star turns for other terrorists: his mad-scientist nephew, Ramzi Yousef, and Omar Abdel Rahman, the capo di tutti jihadi known in America's living rooms as "the Blind Sheikh."

Back in those days, KSM couldn't get himself arrested. Or at least the FBI couldn't get him arrested. That was thanks to Qatar, another of our ambivalent Arab "allies" in the war on terror. The emirate is an authoritarian sharia-state and jihadist financial hub — though you may know it better as the home of al-Jezeera, the Muslim world's virulently anti-American media giant to which KSM once served as al-Qaeda's official liaison.

A U.S.-educated engineer, KSM had a government job in Qatar's ministry of electricity and water when he was tipped off in 1996 that the Americans were closing in. In the nick of time, he fled to Afghanistan. That's where Osama bin Laden, having recently worn out his welcome in Sudan, was just setting up shop.

The rest, as they say, is history. Years later, while confirming his status as an enemy combatant, KSM recounted how he'd become al-Qaeda's "military operational commander" for all foreign operations, running the 9/11 attacks "from A to Z."

And that was just the warm-up. Mohammed took charge of the cell that managed production of biological weapons and radiological "dirty bombs." He planned an unconsummated "second-wave" of suicide-hijacking attacks on the Israeli city of Elat, iconic sites in Great Britain, and the U.S. — where the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers in Chicago, San Francisco and the state of Washington were targeted. KSM directed the bombing of a hotel frequented by Israelis in Mombassa, Kenya — and, for good measure, shot a surface-to-air missile near Mombassa's airport, barely missing a departing El-Al flight. He plotted bomb strikes against America's domestic financial centers; American naval ships and oil tankers in Singapore and the Straits of Hormuz and Gibraltar; and American embassies in Japan, Australia, and Indonesia. The list (which you can find at pages 17-18 of the combatant hearing transcript, here) goes on and on.

KSM is going to be put to death. He knows it and we know it. The same is true of his four underlings. The question is not if but when.

These legal proceedings, then, are simply theater. For the Left, that means projecting shopworn themes under the guise of thoughtfully pondering the purpose of the jihadists' procedural maneuvering. Is KSM scheming to challenge our new president's redoubling of Islamic outreach? Is he daring Obama to kick off the promised era of good feeling by executing Muslims, even as the new administration backpedals from campaign commitments to shut down Gitmo and withdraw from Iraq forthwith? Or is he, as the ACLU speculated for the New York Times, trying to draw attention to the asserted folly of abandoning the 1990's model of civilian terrorist trials in favor of "a failed commission process"?

Yes, it's the silly season.

What we don't yet seem to grasp, even after all that's gone on these last two decades, is that our politics and our law are of interest only to us. They matter nothing to jihadists. It's a fatuous exercise in self-absorption to suppose otherwise — and a foolish one since it demonstrates for all to see that we still don't get it. The delusion that we can change our enemies by changing ourselves is what makes the useful idiots useful.

KSM doesn't see Bush or Obama. He sees an American president. He sees a symbol — the embodiment of a people and culture that are his mortal enemy. Back in 1994, when the Bojinka escapade was flushed out in the Philippines, investigators found that the jihadists were also planning an assassination of President Clinton. Thirteen years later, KSM explained to a military judge that he had mapped out "the assassination of several former American presidents, including President Carter."

Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, cowboy or solon — these distinctions matter to us. KSM couldn't care less.

In 1999, as was the fashion throughout the Nineties, we gave the embassy bombers due process's version of The Full Monty: a civilian trial in the Big Apple, with multiple taxpayer-funded attorneys and investigators at their beck and call. We thought we were teaching the enemy and the world about America's high regard for them and for the rule of law.

The Islamic world was unimpressed — much of it mocking the proceedings as a show trial. As for al-Qaeda, it did what al-Qaeda does: it studied our solicitous procedures with an eye toward the usual barbarity. Mamdouh Salim, a KSM confederate in al-Qaeda's top echelon, determined that the constitutional rights to counsel and to prepare a defense provided a splendid opportunity to kidnap one's American lawyers and use them as human shields in an attempted jail-break. Salim was stopped, but not before nearly killing the prison guard he stabbed in the eye while making his move.

For radical Islam, it's not about us; it's about them. KSM isn't about us. He's about KSM. There is no system we can devise, nothing we can do or not do, no one we can elect or anoint, that will alter how we are perceived by the millions who share the jihadist worldview, if not jihadist methods.

So why are KSM and his four fellow detainees trying to end-run their trial and rush to martyrdom? I daresay the answer should be, "Who cares?"

Live jihadists attain a lofty status in our custody, their notoriety enhancing their ability to inspire more terror. The Blind Sheikh issued the fatwa for 9/11 from his American jail cell; Sayyid Nosair, the murderer of JDL-founder Meir Kahane, exhorted the 1993 World Trade Center bombers from Attica prison; those bombers, in turn, egged on Spanish terrorists by sending messages through the penitentiary mail system. KSM and his associates will be no different. If they are ready to die, we ought to accommodate them — for once, our interests are in sync.

If I thought it was worth wasting much attention on his latest ploy, I'd point out that since being captured in 2003, KSM has been what he hates maybe even more than he hates Americans: irrelevant. Now that he finally has his soapbox, he also has his reputation to consider. Since 9/11, he's best known for breaking under interrogation and thus helping the United States thwart more mayhem than he managed to pull off.

What he wants now is to go out in a blaze of bravado. A full-blown trial — whether military or civilian — might not be the best way to do that. It would broadcast his failures as much as his triumphs. As the outcome is not in doubt, he'd just as soon focus on a heroic, defiant, martyr's death, with as much spotlight as possible.

We should take his guilty plea, then move swiftly to the capital phase and the inevitable death sentence. That is our law. But once that's done, KSM ought to be consigned back to obscurity, at least for a while. He's in a rush, but we don't need to be. At a time of our choosing, when it will get minimum coverage, KSM and his confederates should be executed without fanfare. A curt announcement should be made, informing the public that the deed has been done.

Most of the world would yawn. That would be justice.

 — National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy chairs FDD's Center for Law & Counterterrorism and is the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books 2008).

US Senate Report Says Bush Officials Enabled Detainee Abuse
By VOA News
11 December 2008

US soldier in guard tower over looking military-run Camp Delta prison in Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, June 27, 2006
US soldier in guard tower over looking military-run Camp Delta prison in Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base (file)
A U.S. Senate report has concluded that Bush administration policies led directly to the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The bipartisan report, issued Thursday by the Senate Armed Forces Committee, says the authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques conveyed the message that it was "okay" to mistreat detainees in U.S. custody.

The Bush administration, which has not yet commented on the report, has repeatedly said detainees in U.S. custody are treated humanely, and that because they are enemy combatants, and not prisoners-of-war, they are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.  

The report says harsh interrogation tactics, such as waterboarding, began to be used after President George Bush determined that the Geneva Conventions - the minimum standards for humane treatment - did not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban suspects.

Donald Rumsfeld  (3 June, 2006)
Donald Rumsfeld (file)
The report also says former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques at the Guantanomo Bay detention center, was a direct cause of abusive techniques, including forced nudity, stress positions and the use of military working dogs, at detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq.  

A Defense Department spokesman, Colonel Gary Keck, said today Pentagon officials have not yet reviewed the report. He says numerous reviews of detention operations have all found there was never any policy that condoned or tolerated abuse.  

Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, criticized senior officials for trying to pass responsibility for abuses at U.S. detention facilities to lower-ranking officers.

The ranking Republican, John McCain, said the policies that led to the abuses are wrong, and must never be repeated.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

Blagojevich: Who Is Advisor B?

An unnamed Washington politico is apparently a key player in the Obama Senate-seat scandal.

By Byron York

Barack Obama has flatly said that he has "not discussed the Senate seat with [Rod Blagojevich] at any time." If that is true — and Obama will undoubtedly be asked the broader question of whether he communicated in any way with Blagojevich on the subject — then the big story in the Blagojevich scandal is the role of intermediaries. Throughout the criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich, there are references to unnamed individuals who play important roles in the scandal — and who know a lot about what went on and who was involved. None of those intermediaries is more intriguing than the person referred to as "Advisor B."

We first learn about Advisor B in the complaint's description of a November 7 three-way telephone call between Blagojevich, his chief of staff John Harris, and "Advisor B, a Washington D.C.-based consultant." It was during this call that the participants talked about a "three-way deal for the open Senate seat," involving the Service Employees International Union and its affiliated group "Change to Win." The idea was that Blagojevich would appoint Obama favorite Valerie Jarrett to the seat, and in return, SEIU would make Blagojevich head of "Change to Win," and then Obama would perform some unspecified act to help "Change to Win." Harris said such a deal would give Obama a "buffer so there is no obvious quid pro quo for [Senate Candidate One]," according to the complaint. ("Senate Candidate One," we now know, refers to Jarrett.) "Advisor B said that he liked the idea of the three-way deal," the complaint says. "Advisor B said they should leverage the president-elect's desire to have [Jarrett] appointed to the Senate seat in order to get a head position with Change to Win and a salary."

8 really, really scary predictions

Dow 4,000. Food shortages. A bubble in Treasury notes. Fortune spoke to eight of the market's sharpest thinkers and what they had to say about the future is frightening.

1 of 8
Nouriel Roubini
Nouriel Roubini
Known as Dr. Doom, the NYU economics professor saw the mortgage-related meltdown coming.

We are in the middle of a very severe recession that's going to continue through all of 2009 - the worst U.S. recession in the past 50 years. It's the bursting of a huge leveraged-up credit bubble. There's no going back, and there is no bottom to it. It was excessive in everything from subprime to prime, from credit cards to student loans, from corporate bonds to muni bonds. You name it. And it's all reversing right now in a very, very massive way. At this point it's not just a U.S. recession. All of the advanced economies are at the beginning of a hard landing. And emerging markets, beginning with China, are in a severe slowdown. So we're having a global recession and it's becoming worse.

Things are going to be awful for everyday people. U.S. GDP growth is going to be negative through the end of 2009. And the recovery in 2010 and 2011, if there is one, is going to be so weak - with a growth rate of 1% to 1.5% - that it's going to feel like a recession. I see the unemployment rate peaking at around 9% by 2010. The value of homes has already fallen 25%. In my view, home prices are going to fall by another 15% before bottoming out in 2010.

For the next 12 months I would stay away from risky assets. I would stay away from the stock market. I would stay away from commodities. I would stay away from credit, both high-yield and high-grade. I would stay in cash or cashlike instruments such as short-term or longer-term government bonds. It's better to stay in things with low returns rather than to lose 50% of your wealth. You should preserve capital. It'll be hard and challenging enough. I wish I could be more cheerful, but I was right a year ago, and I think I'll be right this year too.
By Beth Kowitt, Jon Birger and Brian O'Keefe

NEXT: Bill Gross

Nano vs. God

Nanotechnology_main The U.S. is experiencing an apocalyptic showdown even as we speak.  In one corner we have nanotechnology, which could potentially end the world through rogue replication or uncontrolled alteration.  In the other we have God, who has - and this according to his fans, remember - killed almost everything on Earth at least once and will do so again the very instant he decides he wants to, under the euphemistic name of "Rapture".  The public is the referee and, amazingly, they're on the "I drowned all but one family of you people once" guy's side.

A team of American and Singaporean scientists conducted a survey of attitudes towards nanotechnology, and found that the more religious the community, the more they opposed the science of nanotechnology.  Even accounting for factors such as general level of education, activity of the nanotechnology sector in the country, and overall attitudes towards science, the results remained the same.  The more a group believes in invisible and quite extraordinarily silent sky-people, the less they approve of mini-machines.

A key point is that this survey did not account for, or even mention, the "grey-goo" scenario of rogue nanomachines destroying the world - it was a simple survey of "nanotech, morally acceptable or not" over a general audience. Many of whom had never even heard of such a situation, which if nothing else proves their lack of knowledge or authority to comment on nanotech in the first place.

It's important to note that this isn't meant to cast religion in a negative light, just to highlight the fact that misapplying it can be harmful.  Religion can provide a strong moral code (apart from the psychos and the gibberish, most religions boil down to "Try to be nicer to each other"), support for those in need, and an explanation of an often bewildering world to adherents.  The difficulties only set in when it's extended beyond its remit.  Making societal technology choices based on religion is like altering the economy based on a knowledge of macramé: it might be something you care about in your daily life, but that doesn't make it valid for everyone else.

Of course, the religious resistance to the technology of the future of technology could be simple jealousy.  After all, even early nanotech applications have been shown to heal the sick and have potential to feed the many - and apparently there's a guy who's already meant to do that. Even if he's two thousand years late for his return appointment.

Notions nix nanotech

Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst

As ministers and officials gather in Poznan one year ahead of the Copenhagen summit on global warming, the second part of a major series looks at the crucial issue of targets

At a high-level academic conference on global warming at Exeter University this summer, climate scientist Kevin Anderson stood before his expert audience and contemplated a strange feeling. He wanted to be wrong. Many of those in the room who knew what he was about to say felt the same. His conclusions had already caused a stir in scientific and political circles. Even committed green campaigners said the implications left them terrified.

Anderson, an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, was about to send the gloomiest dispatch yet from the frontline of the war against climate change.

Despite the political rhetoric, the scientific warnings, the media headlines and the corporate promises, he would say, carbon emissions were soaring way out of control - far above even the bleak scenarios considered by last year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern review. The battle against dangerous climate change had been lost, and the world needed to prepare for things to get very, very bad.

"As an academic I wanted to be told that it was a very good piece of work and that the conclusions were sound," Anderson said. "But as a human being I desperately wanted someone to point out a mistake, and to tell me we had got it completely wrong."

Nobody did. The cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as Anderson pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out, he said, that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and "dangerously misguided" at worst.

In the jargon used to count the steady accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth's thin layer of atmosphere, he said it was "improbable" that levels could now be restricted to 650 parts per million (ppm).

The CO2 level is currently over 380ppm, up from 280ppm at the time of the industrial revolution, and it rises by more than 2ppm each year. The government's official position is that the world should aim to cap this rise at 450ppm.

The science is fuzzy, but experts say that could offer an even-money chance of limiting the eventual temperature rise above pre-industrial times to 2C, which the EU defines as dangerous. (We have had 0.7C of that already and an estimated extra 0.5C is guaranteed because of emissions to date.)

The graphs on the large screens behind Anderson's head at Exeter told a different story. Line after line, representing the fumes that belch from chimneys, exhausts and jet engines, that should have bent in a rapid curve towards the ground, were heading for the ceiling instead.

At 650ppm, the same fuzzy science says the world would face a catastrophic 4C average rise. And even that bleak future, Anderson said, could only be achieved if rich countries adopted "draconian emission reductions within a decade". Only an unprecedented "planned economic recession" might be enough. The current financial woes would not come close.

Lost cause

Anderson is not the only expert to voice concerns that current targets are hopelessly optimistic. Many scientists, politicians and campaigners privately admit that 2C is a lost cause. Ask for projections around the dinner table after a few bottles of wine and more vote for 650ppm than 450ppm as the more likely outcome.

Bob Watson, chief scientist at the Environment Department and a former head of the IPCC, warned this year that the world needed to prepare for a 4C rise, which would wipe out hundreds of species, bring extreme food and water shortages in vulnerable countries and cause floods that would displace hundreds of millions of people. Warming would be much more severe towards the poles, which could accelerate melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.

Watson said: "We must alert everybody that at the moment we're at the very top end of the worst case [emissions] scenario. I think we should be striving for 450 [ppm] but I think we should be prepared that 550 [ppm] is a more likely outcome." Hitting the 450ppm target, he said, would be "unbelievably difficult".

A report for the Australian government this autumn suggested that the 450ppm goal is so ambitious that it could wreck attempts to agree a new global deal on global warming at Copenhagen next year. The report, from economist Ross Garnaut and dubbed the Australian Stern review, says nations must accept that a greater amount of warming is inevitable, or risk a failure to agree that "would haunt humanity until the end of time".

It says developed nations including Britain, the US and Australia, would have to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 5% each year over the next decade to hit the 450ppm target. Britain's Climate Change Act 2008, the most ambitious legislation of its kind in the world, calls for reductions of about 3% each year to 2050.

Garnaut, a professorial fellow in economics at Melbourne University, said: "Achieving the objective of 450ppm would require tighter constraints on emissions than now seem likely in the period to 2020 ... The only alternative would be to impose even tighter constraints on developing countries from 2013, and that does not appear to be realistic at this time."

The report adds: "The awful arithmetic means that exclusively focusing on a 450ppm outcome, at this moment, could end up providing another reason for not reaching an international agreement to reduce emissions. In the meantime, the cost of excessive focus on an unlikely goal could consign to history any opportunity to lock in an agreement for stabilising at 550ppm - a more modest, but still difficult, international outcome. An effective agreement around 550ppm would be vastly superior to continuation of business as usual."

Henry Derwent, former head of the UK's international climate negotiating team and now president of the International Emissions Trading Association, said a new climate treaty was unlikely to include a stabilisation goal - either 450ppm or 550ppm.

"You've got to avoid talking and thinking in those terms because otherwise the politics reaches a dead end," he said. Many small island states are predicted to be swamped by rising seas with global warming triggered by carbon levels as low as 400ppm. "It's really difficult for countries to sign up to something that loses them half their territory. It's not going to work."

A new agreement in Copenhagen should concentrate instead on shorter term targets, such as firm emission reductions by 2020, he said.

Worst time

The escalating scale of human emissions could not have come at a worst time, as scientists have discovered that the Earth's forests and oceans could be losing their ability to soak up carbon pollution. Most climate projections assume that about half of all carbon emissions are reabsorbed in these natural sinks.

Computer models predict that this effect will weaken as the world warms, and a string of recent studies suggests this is happening already.

The Southern Ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide has weakened by about 15% a decade since 1981, while in the North Atlantic, scientists at the University of East Anglia also found a dramatic decline in the CO2 sink between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.

A separate study published this year showed the ability of forests to soak up anthropogenic carbon dioxide - that caused by human activity - was weakening, because the changing length of the seasons alters the time when trees switch from being a sink of carbon to a source.

Soils could also be giving up their carbon stores: evidence emerged in 2005 that a vast expanse of western Siberia was undergoing an unprecedented thaw.

The region, the largest frozen peat bog in the world, had begun to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago. Scientists believe the bog could begin to release billions of tonnes of methane locked up in the soils, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The World Meteorological Organisation recently reported the largest annual rise of methane levels in the atmosphere for a decade.

Some experts argue that the grave nature of recent studies, combined with the unexpected boom in carbon emissions, demands an urgent reassessment of the situation. In an article published this month in the journal Climatic Change, Peter Sheehan, an economist at Victoria University, Australia, says the scale of recent emissions means the carbon cuts suggested by the IPCC to stabilise levels in the atmosphere "cannot be taken as a reliable guide for immediate policy determination". The cuts, he says, will need to be bigger and in more places.

Earlier this year, Jim Hansen, senior climate scientist with Nasa, published a paper that said the world's carbon targets needed to be urgently revised because of the risk of feedbacks in the climate system. He used reconstructions of the Earth's past climate to show that a target of 350ppm, significantly below where we are today, is needed to "preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed and to which life on Earth is adapted". Hansen has suggested a joint review by Britain's Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences of all research findings since the IPCC report.

Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the IPCC, argues that suggestions the IPCC report is out of date is "not a valid position at all".

He said: "What the IPCC produces is not based on two years of literature, but 30 or 40 years of literature. We're not dealing with short-term weather changes, we're talking about major changes in our climate system. I refuse to accept that a few papers are in any way going to influence the long-term projections the IPCC has come up with."

At Defra, Watson said: "Even without the new information there was enough to make most policy makers think that urgent action was absolutely essential. The new information only strengthens that and pushes it even harder. It was already very urgent to start with. It's now become very, very urgent."

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