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Disruptive technology countermeasures become available to everyman, terrorist and distressed passenger alike


No future wireless device can be responsibly designed and deployed without active, extensive consideration of the means and motivations for taking it down—and active defense, despite the resulting cost and complexity… The same kind of happy innocence that informed the early design of the Internet is also built into most of our wireless products, and it's made them—so far—inexpensive and easy to use… One has to wonder if we'll someday look back at the early '00s as a brief Gilded Age of cable-free convenience—before our wireless systems all had to be armored in cumbersome defensive measures, both concrete and abstract.

Disruptive Tech Gets Scary has both useful and misleading trend lines. I do agree that as logic and transmitter costs continue to drop, and as someone will invariably want to shut down a nearby telecom device for one of many reasons, that we will see growth in active countermeasures devices such as:

  • TV-B-Gone broadcasts "remote control power-switching codes from the same database that's built into any off-the-shelf universal remote control. Within a minute of activation, it will usually hit the infrared pulse code (or codes) to turn off any nearby TV unit."
  • Cell-Block-R exploits a cell phone protocol feature by appearing to be "the best available network access point" to any nearby cell phone. "The cell phone locks on to the blocker" and is effectively disabled until it leaves the transmission range of the blocker.

The first is light, small, and inexpensive while the latter is comparatively bulky (briefcase to laptop charger in size). "If you happen to have other devices in the area that use one of those codes, either by choice or by accident, then welcome to the world of collateral damage" and that applies to "communications devices, pacemakers or other electronic equipment."

It appears that the manufacturers in the US are increasingly able to avoid conflict with the Communications Act of 1934 which states that, "No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government." by avoiding any interference to a licensed radio station and merely communicating under 'false pretences' instead of jamming.

Cell phones and TV receivers are appliances, and their designers are obligated to take the world as they find it in terms of surrounding signals. That world, like any ecosystem, initially had no enemies that targeted these emergent species, but, over time, nature always seems to evolve new predators for new prey.

If the law changes to expand the scope of the Communications Act, it will only affect the honest but overwrought and not the terrorist or criminal. I would at least expect to see a trajectory similar to the cat and mouse game of police radar jammers. It is sad to think of personal convenience devices having to go the way of many microwave transmission system that are being replaced by fiber optic networks so as to avoid interference and interception, but that may be a future possibility.

An active defense, more precisely counter-countermeasures, will have to enter into the design criteria for future generations, if not immediately next generations.  (One also wonders about add-ons to legacy equipment.)

I do, however, disagree with two of the author's contentions and supporting rationale that EMP (electromagnetic pulse) and HERF (high-energy radio frequency) weapons will not play a part in "the terrorist arsenal."

  • "Conventional bombs and guns are cheaper to build or buy, and much more terrifying" -- an EMP or HERF devices are becoming increasingly cheaper to build. See COTS electromagnetic weapons from simple dual-use items. These devices may well be an enabler to a terrorist/criminal action and not the primary destructive payload.
  • "EMP and HERF are electronic Godzillas, able to stomp on an entire building but also easily detected" -- these devices do not have to be large to have an effect. Similarly, the smaller devices noted above can be used in a swarm mode that allows they to inexpensively blanket a larger area.

Think of the desired effect and then shape the technology to achieve it.

Disruptive Tech Gets Scary
By Peter Coffee
November 1, 2004

New Service Aims at In-Flight Use of Cell Phones
By Guy Kewney
September 22, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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The flu season not yet underway and uncomfortable signs that 'when, not if' is shifting to 'soon, not when'


A Thai teenager that died in Thailand of avian flu was "was an 18-year-old male who'd been exposed to sick chickens… had very close contact to . . . fighting cocks by carrying and helping to clear up the mucous secretion from the throat of the cock during the fighting game by using his mouth.

That is, the young man -- in a move not uncommon in cockfighting circles -- had cleared the cock's airway by sucking his rooster's beak and then swallowing the spit and mucus. ''That was a risk factor for avian flu that we hadn't really considered before.'' -- WHO Disease Outbreak News, ProMED-mail

A fine example of why scenario planning does not work as no matter how many scenarios one spins, as it will be one not envisioned that will deliver the payload. Only rigorous, timely, and accurate procedural analysis will work, but in a repeat of the SARS debacle, governments are voting their short term economic gains over recognition of the pandemic on their doorstep by reducing the flow of accurate infection information and slowing the entry of foreign epidemiologists.

The globe is statistically overdue for another influenza pandemic such as the one in 1918 that killed 20 to 50 million worldwide. In Will it take a second pandemic to move flu vaccines from private enterprise to national defense?, I predicted that "flu vaccines in the developed world will follow the trajectory of AIDS drugs in the third world: similar lethargy, death toll, threats to bypass patents to produce generic substitutes, and finally various forms of production and/or resale agreements that allow wider local ministration to the disease" even as the avian influenza strain A(H5N1) "continues to kill the majority of people it infects." The medical chatter is increasingly uncomfortable in that feeling of when, not if is shifting to soon, not when. The 70-odd members of the CDC influenza team are the US’s "first -- and in a worst-case scenario, last -- line of defense" against another influenza attack.

Between January and the end of October, 32 people have died from avian influenza in Vietnam and Thailand. Tens of millions of chickens have succumbed. Millions of others have been slaughtered. More nations have admitted to outbreaks among birds in more provinces than would have been conceivable even 18 months ago.

Events in Asia, in particular, are escalating almost daily, with more human deaths, more different species becoming infected and more questions arising about how the virus there behaves. At the same time, some governments in the region are remaining closemouthed about what is happening within their borders.

It is useful to understand the classes of subgroups of flu:

Influenza viruses are divided into three types: A, B or C, depending on the virus structure. Humans can be infected with all three, although C-class flus are uncommon and influenza B doesn't usually cause severe illness except among children. Influenza A is the monster, in both animals and people, causing, by and large, the most virulent illness. Type A influenzas (unlike B's or C's) have multiple subtypes: H3N2, H1N1, H7N2. The ''H'' is for hemagglutinin, a spiky protein on the surface of the influenza molecule. In human flu viruses, the spikes of hemagglutinin [connect] with matching receptors on the outside of healthy respiratory-system cells. The virus then melds with the healthy cell and begins replicating. Neuraminidase, the ''N'' in the flu name, another protein, uncouples the virus from its host, tearing the cell membrane and allowing the progeny to escape, killing the cell. Loosed, they start repeating the process deeper and deeper into the respiratory tract.

Whereas the 1997 Hong Kong H5N1 averted a pandemic when authorities, acting on data confirming the causal link between fowl and humans, called for the immediate killing of all fowl, the 2003 SARS outbreak became ''interpolated with economic and political concerns'' when Beijing denied there was a problem, doctored the data, and tried to bluff its way out. This latter pattern is now being duplicated in Viet Nam and Thailand in 2004, but unlike SARS which had a relatively infection rate, an avian pandemic under similar dissembling may run riot. This 2004 event is avian flu, H5N1. By infecting house cats and pigs, and being the first avian flu transmittable cat to cat, it has shown a strong ability to infect mammals.

Pandemics require (a) a new human influenza subtype to which the infected will have no developed immunities, and (b) efficient person to person transmission. While many strains of influenza A circulate in birds, three have caused a pandemic when introduced into humans:

The catastrophic 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was caused by H1N1. The 1957 Asian flu pandemic, which killed 70,000 in the United States, was brought about by H2N2. And the 1968 pandemic of Hong Kong flu introduced H3N2. That outbreak killed about 34,000 people in the United States.

Lack of data and access shroud the transmission vectors, why it stops and starts, why more poultry workers haven't fallen ill, and how H5NI is mutating. Asian reluctance to look for avian flu may mask the moment when an epidemic passes into a pandemic.

We are running on chance.

The Flu Hunters
By Gretchen Reynolds
New York Times
November 7, 2004

Communicable Disease Surveillance & Response (CSR)
Disease Outbreak News

Federation of American Scientists

Gordon Housworth

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Expect a rise in terrorism from US nationals: single-issue , left wing ideological, and cyber


Reflecting upon the divisiveness and anger of the recent election, and the rationale that give rise to single-Issue terrorism, I predict that we will see a rise in single-issue terrorism, left wing ideological terrorism (until recently in decline), and cyber terrorism, all from US nationals and quite independent of any non-state sponsored actors such as al Qaeda.

My reasons for this spike have to do with the myriad of articles that I see regarding election rigging, vote tampering, malfunctioning voting machines, self-censorship by major news media during the election campaign. I detect an emotion of having been "doubly cheated" in two successive presidential elections such that the only recourse for some will be extralegal.

Certainly most emotions will cool, but this is an election whose partisan divide is unlike any that I have heretofore seen, and it only takes a modest few retaining that firebrand vision to make great mischief. (Think of the Unabomber with access to vastly greater technology and communications skills.)

Consider the definition of single issue terrorism: "extremist militancy of individuals or small groups protesting a perceived grievance or wrong attributed to governmental action or inaction. Under this heading, three issues have gained salience: the "fight" for animal rights, environmentalism and the "fight" against abortion. Authorities have been expecting a rise in single-issue attacks in all categories well before the 2004 presidential election, but I suspect that new feelings of grievance coupled with what two of the three categories would expect of a continuance in current administration will accelerate that pace.

There are also ample opportunities to link an activist without prior "tools skills" to an anarchist/patriot solidly in possession of them. Take the example of Timothy W. Tobiason, a self taught individual who has authored three books (which he sells inexpensively at gun shows around the country): "Bio Toxic Weapons," "Military Phosphorus Chemical Weapons and Nerve Agents," and "Scientific Principles of Improvised Warfare and Home Defense Volume 6-1: Advanced Biological Weapons Design and Manufacture":

The sale of survival and doomsday books is not unusual at gun shows and elsewhere, and the Internet is filled with advice on how to make explosives. What makes Mr. Tobiason's writings more dangerous, germ-warfare experts who have read it say, is that it offers anyone with $10 the ability to build crude biological weapons capable of killing thousands of people. Those experts say Mr. Tobiason's 250-page book does not give specific directions for producing the finely milled anthrax that was sent to Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader, and, in fact, contains some errors. The book deals mostly with the production of wet anthrax, though it does suggest a way to grind clusters of anthrax into microscopic pieces, which can settle into the lungs. But Dr. Alibek [former First Deputy Director of the USSR's Biopreparat] said Mr. Tobiason's work "could be a step on the road," for someone intent on producing highly lethal anthrax. Richard Spertzel, a former head of biological inspections in Iraq for the United Nations, said Mr. Tobiason's instructions would produce "a low- grade product" at best but added that the book, "ought to be damn near illegal, if it's not now."

Now consider an interaction with an environmentalist that Tobiason recounted in a rambling essay, Identifying Undercover Activity and Agents:

A couple more interesting anecdotes come from this same time frame. While selling my books at Las Vegas, an environmentalist came up at the end of the show to look at my books. I had just finished the chemical weapons book and he looked at it for a couple of minutes. He then came up and asked me if I was some kind of a nut to put information like this out. I told him not to worry, as soon as someone takes a bunch of herbicide, makes it into nerve agent and wipes out a city, the government will take all the organophosphates off the market. It took a few seconds for the light bulb to finally go off in his head and then I saw him grin ear to ear and say "Yeah, that would be good for the environment"!.

Those are not the kind of odds that leave me with comfort that miscreants with intent cannot quickly acquire the base knowledge to jumpstart their own secular jihad.

In Utah, a Government Hater Sells a Germ-Warfare Book
New York Times
November 21, 2001

Terrorism from Newly Empowered Pressure Groups Poses a Threat
By Charles E. Boyle
Insurance Journal
June 18, 2001

New York Times Killed "Bush Bulge" Story
FAIR Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
112 W. 27th Street New York, NY 10001
November 5, 2004

Ballot Boxing
Joel N. Shurkin
Baltimore Jewish Times
OCTOBER 29, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Face to face with the chasm between elements of Islam and the West


The chasm between Anglo-European nationals, Christian, Jewish, and secular, and what I would call Western educated Muslim fundamentalism, i.e., a Muslim that speaks English or another European language, holds employment in a commercial firm, be it in the West or within a Muslim state, while holding strong Islamic views, was brought directly to the fore by a thread in an unlikely place -- an industrial design forum.

Hosted by York University in Canada, the Industrial Design Forum, or IDFORUM, has some 800 + subscribers around the globe. The IDFORUM charter states that it "provides a global electronic meeting place for all involved in industrial design. Practicing designers, design educators and design students are invited to subscribe." Hardy a place that one expects to come face to face with fundamentalism.

In a thread devoted to "World Issues" (affecting design and consumers of design), a Muslim designer offered this comment, with no deletions or changes):

-----Original Message-----
From: Industrial Design Forum [
mailto:IDFORUM@YORKU.CA] On Behalf Of Habib Hussein [habib_hussein1@HOTMAIL.COM]
Sent: Friday, 05 November, 2004 13:23
Subject: Re: World issues

Dear Jan,

This may sound harsh to some of you but, in my humble opinion, The Quran (and only in Arabic) is the Word of Allah - the ultimate designer. All others are wrong or outdated. There is no other Holy Text - as are writings of the atheist! I believe that anything else comes from Satan. One day the world will realise this as we will all be one people. The Holy Cites in and around Jerusalem will be controlled by Muslims one day instead of those who kill my people. I believe this will be the only way we will have world peace not by america or bush. He is a man of conviction and blindness. He wants to spread democracy but democracy too is the work of Satan. Look at them, they are places of lying, cheating, porn, drugs, alcohol, smoking, caffiene, greed, Machiavellian, insabordination to the autorities...

The more the world is divided, and it is doing a nice job of this, the more people will realise that Islam is the only way. Just look at all the new converts the world over, especially in Africa and Asia. Europe is next.

That is what motivates me to design and develop technology, results for the Kingdom of Allah.


It is effortless to imagine that a much more isolated Muslim fundamentalist would decide to kill the artist Theo Van Gogh on an Amsterdam bicycle path.

It is always useful to see the post that occasioned the above response lest the Muslim's reply be due to baiting. Not so. Following is what I felt was a thoughtful post from a forum member at the University of South Australia:

Dear Habib,

Perhaps some fundamentalists everywhere have a lot in common whether they are Christian, Jewish, Moslem, or Hindu, or anything else. If a person who believes deeply in God, in religious law, and in the truth of their Holy Text and still somehow manages to ignore where it says we should love each other, then they may not be very fundamental in their beliefs at all only in their dogma which may be based on the word of other men, not the Holy Text. All those Holy Texts direct us to treat others with respect, live dignified and honourable lives and help others to do so as well. If a person who claims to believe fundamentally in the Truth, chooses for what ever reason to kill, torture, force, steal from, destroy, demean, leave to starve, arm, or in any other way injure another human being, regardless of circumstance; they are probably behaving in a way contrary to the spirit and purpose of loving God. Loving man and those creatures less able than us is I think a path to internal coherence described in all the Holy Texts.

And there are by the way some of us who do not choose to speak for others or design for destruction. I think we should speak from our own hearts to other people's hearts. Not as a group to a group we do not know as individuals. I agree we need to see each other as friends and share our understanding. The world needs all of us.


I was among the early few that called the threat from al Qaeda and prophesied a conflict that could achieve the magnitude of a Holy War. I fear that it will require prodigious efforts to retain it at that daunting level. I further submit that until we come to terms with this possibility, that interim decisions will be insufficient to deal with the issue. And if we have indeed "become Israelis" as Mark Levine's guest editorial on Juan Cole' weblog suggests, we will have a combative, unproductive, and costly path on way there.

We’re all Israelis Now
Mark Levine, University of California, Irvine
November 05, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Watching the front door, the wrong door, while mayhem occurs at the back door


It is unlikely that the State Institute of Organic Synthesis Technologies (GITOS), its two facilities, Shikhany-1 and Shikhany-2, and the regional storage facility at Gornyi, all in Russia's Saratov region would mean much to US nationals. They should, as so should their state of deterioration and neglect, of both staff and facilities. We are speaking of one of Russia's larger chemical weapons design and storage facilities. Shikhany-2 is "Russia's primary center for the development of chemical weapons as well as protective measures against chemical, bacteriological and nuclear weapons" and includes the "Defense Ministry's test range for chemical and radiological weapons and defense systems." Shikhany-1 is (was) one of the primary research centers on hazardous chemicals with civilian applications until almost half the staff left after being unpaid for a year.

It is also worthwhile to remember the "Willy Sutton" rule in relationship to WMD fissile packages, bomb-grade nuclear materials, chemical and biological agents, their precursor components, and, of course, the research and production staff able to assemble any of them. (When Sutton was asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, the bank robber replied "Because that’s where the money is.") Al Qaeda certainly has, and their agents and criminal intermediaries are constantly paying attention to weak links in order to buy what they cannot yet fabricate.

Scientists from a former chemical weapons factory in Russia's Saratov Region have written to Russian Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu warning him of an impending disaster at the facility. The State Organic Synthesis Technology Institute in the village of Shikhany faces bankruptcy after years of declining demand. The scientists say the facility owes millions of roubles in debts and the 500 personnel have not been paid for months. They warn that no provisions have been made by the state to safeguard the stockpiles of toxic agents at the institute when it goes into liquidation. The scientific associates of the federal state unitary enterprise State Organic Synthesis Technology Institute (GITOS) located in the settlement of Shikhany in Saratov Region, have written a letter to Russian Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu. They likened the current state of affairs at the enterprise to a natural disaster.

The institute, which specialized in the development of chemical weapons for 40 years and accumulated an impressive stockpile of toxic agents, owes R100m to energy companies and to its own personnel. All of the power has been shut off at the institute. The institute's wage arrears were accumulated over a period of 11 months and ultimately amounted to R17m. "This is not a current problem. We have lived with it for more than 10 years," the chemists wrote. During that time, the personnel staff was cut to one-seventh of its previous size, decreasing from 3,500 positions to 500. The remaining personnel have nowhere to go: They cannot afford to move (they do not even have money for food, and hunger strikes are no longer a rare occurrence here), and there is no demand for such highly specific specialities in the country today. The institute's conversion plans (entailing the production of scarce medicines) have been difficult to implement: Investors face almost insurmountable difficulties because the institute still has the status of a restricted facility.

Russia commenced the decline of GITOS when it signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention, reducing its demand for continued chemical and biological agent production, and most recently forcing GITOS into bankruptcy:

According to the letter's authors, the Federal Agency for Industry, which took control of the institute along with the rest of the Russian Munitions Agency's charges, feels no responsibility for the hazardous production facility. According to the chemists, the agency only cares about the profitable portion of the enterprise (the one that barely makes a living on pharmaceuticals). For most of GITOS, the reorganization will mean liquidation (some of the institute buildings are already being dismantled). No one knows how the toxic agents, whose containers have to be renewed regularly, will be stored in the absence of personnel. In addition, no one knows what will happen to the personnel. An official resettlement programme has been instituted for them, but it can only handle a few families a year. "People are losing their patience," the chemists informed Shoygu. "There have been demands for mass hunger strikes and highway traffic blockades. It has become exceptionally difficult to keep the work team within the law." The authors of the letter suggested that the failure of the Russian government to take action in this situation could lead to a man-made disaster.

This conditions sound tailor made for theft, diversion, and corruption from staff, guards, or external penetration. I find it frightening that there are so many WMD facilities in the former Soviet Union, now the Commonwealth of Independent states (CIS), that are simply falling apart along with the security charged with their protection.

If the US can profess to be concerned about areas of Africa hollowed out by AIDS that can become new al Qaeda havens, why are they not concerned with the hollowing out of key portions of the former Soviet weapons enterprise. A fraction of what we spend in Iraq could sequester and/or destroy these WMD assets. Al Qaeda has demonstrated the ability to 'hit us where we ain't' and it would be a masterstroke on their part to hold our attention in Iraq while they obtain materials from Russia to create disaster here in the US.

Chemical weapons storage methods spark protests
Gateway to Russia/BBC Monitoring/Nezavisimaya Gazeta
25 October 2004 13:07

Shikany / Volsk-18
Global Security
last data 1997

Chemical Weapons in Russia: History, Ecology, Politics
[Khimicheskoye Oruzhiye V Rossii: Istoriya, Ekologiya, Politika]
by Doctor of Chemical Sciences Lev Aleksandrovich Fedorov Moscow
Center of Ecological Policy of Russia
27 July 1994

Gordon Housworth

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Copycat killings from Iraq to Europe


"Don't do it. Don't do it. Have mercy. Have mercy!"... [The killer fired] eight or nine times, then calmly bent over his victim and slit his throat with a knife... The shooter stayed next to him and waited. Waited to make sure he was dead... Two knives were left in his body, one pinning a note to his chest [containing] quotations in Arabic from the Koran. -- multiple sources

Not Iraq or Afghanistan, but Amsterdam, Netherlands. Not a publicly ordained fatwa as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989, sending Rushdie into a decade of hiding, but an unannounced terrorist attack by a Muslim faithful against a very public figure in Dutch free speech and artistic circles, Theo Van Gogh.

As noted in European anti-terrorist arms likely "not winning" their struggle, the Director General of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), Sybrand van Hulst, commented that the Netherlands can expect to live with the threat of Islamic terrorism for years to come, and that, "those fighting terrorism are not winning. There is not even a prospect of winning":

The AIVD is surveilling mosques of imams preaching a radical agenda as well as a larger group of imams who track to "old-style Islamic laws and stood aloof from the values of Western society in their teachings." [There is] a constantly changing group of 150 people in the Netherlands with links to terrorist networks, but they are harder to catch. "The networks in question are becoming increasingly more autonomous, regional or even local in nature. Their members have already spent years living in the West. These networks are linked by an array of international and undefined relationships."

As Theo Van Gogh discovered on an Amsterdam bicycle path. The great-grand-nephew of the painter Vincent van Gogh, Theo van Gogh was a lightening rod for controversy and free speech who had annoyed Christian and Jewish groups well before Muslims. Evidence of his engaging but prickly nature was his "habit of giving guests on his talk show a cactus as a gift."

Only Muslims killed him, apparently for a TV short, "Submission," that "told the fictional story of a Muslim woman forced into a violent marriage, raped by a relative and brutally punished for adultery." Aired on Dutch TV this August, the "English-language film was scripted by [a female] Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament, [who] has repeatedly outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways."

The killer was a 26-year-old "suspected Muslim extremist" with dual Moroccan-Dutch citizenship. He wore traditional Muslim garb and a long beard at the time of the attack. Seven other Moroccan, Algerian, and Spanish-Moroccan nationals were detained in the wake of the killer's arrest:

Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said the suspect "acted out of radical Islamic fundamentalist convictions"... had contacts with a group that was under surveillance by the Dutch secret service. The suspect allegedly is friends with Samir Azzouz, an 18-year-old Muslim of Moroccan origin awaiting trial on charges of planning a terrorist attack targeting a nuclear reactor and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, NOS Dutch television reported. Azzouz was among those arrested in October 2003 but released for lack of evidence. He was re-arrested in June.

I recommend readers to Radical resident Euro-Mulsims preach overthrow and jihad

Openly preached in radical mosques in the UK and elsewhere in Europe: Muslims will no longer be restrained from attacking the Western countries that now host them if bin Laden's Euro-neutrality offer is spurned. "All Muslims of the West will be obliged [to] become his sword" This traffic rarely makes it to our shores. Save for the sermons of the [few], we do not have this level of public venom from Muslim sheiks within our borders. Some of these imams have been inciting youths "to suicidal violence since the 1990's," yet have escaped deportation by working the legal system against itself. Stronger antiterrorism laws have not made a dent, thus authorities have been reduced to mouse-trapping on immigration violations but those efforts often fail due to the liberal nature of such laws in Europe.

I believe that we are on the cusp of more of this in Europe, and was in fact surprised that Abdelrahman al-Rashid, now managing director of the satellite channel al-Arabiya, was not attacked for his scathing attack on Muslim clerics who justify the killing of the innocent in the name of jihad.

Dutch anger at Islamist link to brutal van Gogh murder
Anthony Browne in Brussels
Times (UK)
November 04, 2004

Muslim row filmmaker 'murdered'
November 2, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Gazing into the mirror of our own election monitoring


one monitoring project invited more than 20 international observers from 15 countries including Australia, Argentina, South Africa and Zambia to help monitor the presidential election and increase voter confidence. In addition, more than 60 domestic groups have mobilized volunteers to monitor the election, including a group with technical expertise that will evaluate the performance of e-voting machines.

Viewing domestic policy as a life support system for thoughtful foreign policy, I rarely dwell on the domestic side even as I know foreign and domestic to be deeply intertwined. But as this election year is different from most, I thought to combine the two from the outside looking in. Most readers will have already guessed that the country being monitored is not a third world satrap but the US itself. Long considering itself above reproach, where many of its citizens see themselves as "self-appointed guardians of democracy... monitoring elections overseas in contested hot spots and fledgling democracies, the US finds the tables turned.

What disturbs me is the number that take great umbrage bordering on violence and the number who are very relieved to have both international and domestic support to reduce intimidation and vote spoiling. While I feel that the US remains one of the best 'shining lights' on any hill, it seems that our bulb is a bit dusty:

the Florida experience -- combined with new concerns over touch-screen voting and long-standing controversies about the role of money and politics -- had diminished public faith in our democracy

The observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be the first ever foreign organization to officially monitor a US presidential vote. "Although the US State Department invited the OSCE, a 55-nation body covering Europe, the former Soviet Union and North America, the issue was hotly debated in the US Congress." That criticism palls in comparison to condemnation rising in conservative watchdog groups and patriot weblogs. The vitriol is fierce yet I have never heard any of these groups complain when it is the US doing the monitoring.

The US human rights group Global Exchange gathered its own group of international observers (who hasten to stress 'observer' over 'monitor'), making it "clear from the start that the presence of the election observers is not meant to make the United States appear to be a struggling democracy." Following a preliminary trip in September in five states (Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Florida and Arizona) to "examine election procedures and become familiar with issues of voter disenfranchisement, e-voting systems and campaign finance reform," GE observers returned in late October to observe elections in Ohio, Missouri and Florida.

Joining these foreign observers will be some 25,000 domestic monitors in 17 states buttressed by groups such as the Verified Voting Foundation and their programs such as TechWatch and the Election Incident Reporting System. OSCE observers will make no statements during the voting "about whether mishaps, punch-cards or electronic voting equipment (photo) could influence the election outcome," deferring its preliminary findings and conclusions until 4 November and a final report some thirty days hence.

I think that the US should listen carefully to the preliminary comments coming back from offshore observers:

Despite their focus on individual states, the observers said they found some problems that apply to all states. One overarching problem they cited is that political campaigns are privately financed, giving an edge to the rich. They recommend public financing to help reduce even the perception of such an advantage. One overarching problem is that political campaigns are privately financed, giving an edge to the rich.

The South Africans, having just completed the wrenching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, know something about discrimination:

shocked that minorities are often disenfranchised from the election process, in part because the voter-registration process is more complex in some states than it needs to be.

We should listen as we can always improve.

U.S.: Foreign Election Observers Urge Improvements In U.S. Voting
By Andrew Tully
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
October 22, 2004

U.S. gets election advice from outsiders
October 7, 2004 Posted: 7:26 AM EDT

U.S. Elections Under a Microscope
By Laila Weir
02:00 AM Oct. 05, 2004 PT

Foreign Observers Ready to Monitor US Elections
Deutsche Welle
DW staff/AFP (sac)

US Lawmakers Request UN Observers for November 2 Presidential Election
Agence France Presse
July 2, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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When mere pessimism is an optimistic analysis


As grim as last Friday's forecast was in Forecast for Iraq and Afghanistan: taking the pulse of the war on terror, it was the most optimistic, if such an adjective is possible under the circumstances, of a range of options. At its simplest, our present focus on Iraq has done double damage, i.e., for what it has set in motion by its missteps in the region, and for what it has allowed to drift or receive insufficient attention due to the focus on Iraq. Add to that the remarkable inefficiency and squandering of resources in the prosecution of what we have set out to do, and you have a challenge on your hands. If I can turn to it in time, I will elaborate, but for now here are citations I find pertinent to the threats at hand:

Hell to Pay
By Rod Nordland, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Michael Hirsh
Newsweek, Nov 8, 2004 issue

U.S. Hopes To Divide Insurgency
By Bradley Graham and Walter Pincus
Washington Post
October 31, 2004

Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did
By Martin van Creveld
Defense and the National Interest

GIs Lack Armor, Radios, Bullets
60 Minutes, CBSNews
Oct. 31, 2004

Provincial Capital Near Falluja Is Rapidly Slipping Into Chaos
New York Times
October 28, 2004

Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache
New York Times
October 29, 2004

Rights Group Warned U.S. of Munitions Cache
By William J. Kole
Associated Press
October 31, 2004

Munitions Issue Dwarfs the Big Picture
By Bradley Graham and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post
October 29, 2004

Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq
By Peter W. Galbraith
Boston Globe
October 27, 2004

Quarterly Report of the Office of the Inspector General, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA-IG)
Stuart W. Bowen, Inspector General
Office of the Inspector General Coalition Provisional Authority
October 30, 2004
here for the report, as well as acronyms, definitions, and all appendices

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey
Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham
The Lancet
Published online October 29, 2004

Iraq's Prime Minister Faults U.S. Military in Massacre
New York Times
October 27, 2004

Unprecedented Peril Forces Tough Calls
President Faces a Multi-Front Battle Against Threats Known, Unknown
By Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post
October 26, 2004

US Hoped for Bin Laden Breakthrough: Newsweek
Oct 31, 2004 05:50 PM ET

New Video Shows Kidnapped U.N. Workers in Afghanistan
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post
October 31, 2004

"Misunderestimating" Terrorism
September/October 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs
October 12, 2004

China Lays Into 'Bush Doctrine' Ahead of U.S. Poll
October 31, 2004
Filed at 10:07 p.m. ET

Gordon Housworth

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When "Palestine for Dummies" is written, Chirac should be its author


While Chirac may no longer be, in Arafat's words, "the "doctor" who could always fix things" for him, Chirac is certainly fixing things for France at the expense of the US and, for that matter, Israel, whose interest are of but modest concern to France as it attempts to forge new relationships beyond the EU with Asian, Muslim, and third world nations.

Chirac is a thoughtful politician pursuing French national aims. It is said that Chirac's relationship with Arafat had "cooled" to the point that "Chirac has often told interlocutors in private that he believes the Palestinian leader is incapable of knowing when to make a deal. Mr. Chirac has also said that no decisions are possible without Mr. Arafat." This is to me simple political realism as, after all, more than a few great worthies such as Chirac and Rumsfeld made pilgrimages to Baghdad when it was the political expediency of the day.

The appeal by the Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, to Chirac that Arafat "could not receive adequate care in his compound in the Israeli-occupied West Bank" was tailor-made for a white knight response. While I think poorly of Arafat for consistently putting himself and his cronies ahead of the Palestinian people, I would have invited him to undergo treatment here as it is the geopolitically realistic thing to do. (The intransient behavior of the US and Israel is frankly counterproductive and will continue to reward states such as France and China that employ a cooperative posture.)

France has accorded Arafat what amounts to full military honors. I do not see it as coincidence that Arafat was flown on military aircraft and treated in a military hospital, regardless of the specialty of treatment needed. Named after the chief surgeon of Napoleon's Grande Armee, Baron Pierre-Francois Percy, the Percy Army Teaching Hospital where Arafat arrived for treatment is a French military hospital with strong specialisations in treating blood and cancer cases, but its "main speciality is caring for victims of burns and radiation" with a strong teaching component. "Apart from military patients, the Percy hospital also admits civilians and many of its patients are residents from the surrounding middle-class suburb." In other words, it appears to me that the French could have taken him there for any malady, but it sounds better to indicate that it was a special selection.

Arab and Iranian press note Chirac's comment that:

It was natural that France, a land of refuge, would not question the right of the president of the Palestinian Authority to come for medical treatment in our country" [and for good measure,] "The French president added that he believed Israeli assurances that Arafat would be allowed to return to the Palestinian territories. "I have no reason to doubt what was officially stated by the Israeli government."

Then in a letter to Arafat made public on 28 October, Chirac wrote:

France, as you know, backs the aspiration you embody for the creation of a viable, prosperous and peaceful Palestinian state alongside a state of Israel assured of its security.

While the press would have us believe that Chirac "personally made the decision to provide Mr. Arafat with medical treatment in France" over the advice of "some senior French officials [who argued] that it would further damage relations with the United States, Israel and the French Jewish community," the action is consistent with a longstanding French tilt "even as other European governments have increasingly distanced themselves" from Arafat.

French forces first saved Arafat in 1982 when French troops "helped him leave the Lebanese capital Beirut for Athens while Israeli forces closed in." French officials regularly visited Arafat during his virtual house arrest at the Ramallah compound. When Israel threatened to expel Arafat in 2003, Chirac said:

Yasser Arafat is the legitimate authority" of the Palestinian Authority. I think, and I believe the European Union also considers that it would be a serious mistake to try to eliminate him from the political arena.

In June, 2004 Foreign Minister Michel Barnier cancelled a trip to Israel after it refused to allow a meeting with Arafat.

Chirac sees a long term benefit in being the benefactor to both Arabs and their governments, all at little or no cost to France, at great expense to the US, and ultimately great diplomatic and commercial gain to Paris.

When Chriac writes Dummies, I'll read it.

Arafat in Hospital Near Paris for Treatment of Mystery Illness
New York Times
October 29, 2004

Ailing Arafat arrives in France
By Marc Burleigh - PARIS
Middle East Online
Last Updated 2004-10-29 16:25:30

Chirac Defends Arafat's Legitimacy, French FM Barnier Meets Him
Palestine Media Center PMC

Gordon Housworth

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Need for a book, "Palestine for dummies": need for the dummies in America to read it


Virtually few to none US nationals connect Palestine and Iraq, even at this late date in the second Gulf War, whereas 45 million Arabs and Muslims connect it daily to the degrees that an outsider would think that Palestine leavens the daily bread they break. If memory serves, the line from Control Room is, "If a water main breaks in Damascus, it’s an Israeli conspiracy," i.e., every misstep is derived from the West and its client state, Israel.

We are now on the eve of transfer of power of the head of what passes for a rump Palestinian state; the one individual that has simultaneously represented and robbed the Palestinian people, that has been the instrumental linchpin of failure by insuring that the Palestinian negotiation process would never reach a conclusion as for him the process rather than the conclusion was authority and legitimacy, and made certain that no heir apparent could emerge and that he would only be surrounded by sycophantic 'yes men' thus depriving Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) a seasoned tier of middle managers.

And the US seems not to notice.

I do not accept that view that US national elections have driven him off the page. More precisely he has rarely been on the page in any meaningful manner, i.e., he has only appeared in relationship to Israeli security but never as symptom and symbol of the angst of Arabs and a growing number of Muslims.

What are we then to make of Yasser Arafat, egoist and nationalist, dictator and leader, thief and father figure, as he departs to France for diagnosis of what may be a terminal illness, a leave-taking marked by comments such as:

"I can't believe my eyes. He left us. Who is going to take care of us? Who is going to listen to us?"

"There's nobody like him, and nobody will replace him. He will never come back."

It is too cheap a shot to muse that there must have been those in Chicago that thought well of Al Capone. While a self-publicist, myth spinner, and briber, Arafat did more than most to put, and keep, the Palestinian cause on the world's agenda. But his method of keeping it there will soon launch intercene rivalry:

Arafat has refused to groom an heir and has not permitted a new generation of leaders to flourish under his command. As a result, several of the most popular Palestinians have developed their own followings in different factions and geographic areas, creating the potential for bitter power struggles.

And lets not forget Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and Hezbollah, both rivals of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. In reviewing the dispute over whether the Al-Aqsa Intifada was a product of Palestinian strategy, or a product of its absence (I favor the latter), Hillel Frisch notes that the consequent unraveling of the Palestinian political center was going to hamper development and implementation of such strategies in the future. He now predicts "a tremendous crisis in the Palestinian political center" upon Arafat's death as politicians and security officials jockey for influence.

Those contenders spring from two main categories: the younger "insiders" that remained in the Israeli-occupied territories when the PLO was in exile, and the outsider elders, often derisively called the "Tunisians," that followed Arafat though exile in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. Marwan Barghouti, Jibril Rajoub, and Mohammed Dahlan are among the former, while Ahmed Qurei and Mahmoud Abbas are in the latter.

Given that all are part of the same elite, Mouin Rabbani asks "can they survive [Arafat's] absence, and can they hold the Palestinian national movement together?" Yossi Alpher adds, "If Arafat dies or is incapacitated, we're looking at what I would call a revolutionary situation, in the sense that all kinds of dynamics will be released."

I find it astonishing that the US and its voters cannot care to track a progress that will have much to do with how Palestine morphs, how stable or instable it becomes, what a resulting US response should be to both Palestine and Israel, and what will be the resulting perception of the US in the Arab world -- a perception that has much to say as to how our actions in Iraq will be seen by Arab viewers.

Who could follow Arafat?
By Roger Hardy
2004/10/28 15:57:50 GMT

Interview: Former Marine Capt. Josh Rushing, former Centcom press spokesman
Fresh Air
Friday , October 29, 2004

Palestinians Left to Consider What's Next
By John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore
Washington Post
October 30, 2004

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